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Which mammal lives the longest?
We take a look at some of the world‘s longest living animals to see how we compare.
1-2 YEARS: WEASEL LIFESPAN
Weasels make up for their short life by having up to 13 kits in a litter and up to three litters a year.
3 YEARS: HEDGEHOG LIFESPAN
Hedgehogs have tough lives: half die in their first year, and few live longer than three years.
12 YEARS: WOLVERINE LIFESPAN
The largest members of the weasel family, wolverines stay with their mother until the age of two, when they can start to breed.
14 YEARS: TIGER LIFESPAN
Young tigers suffer a high mortality rate, with 50 per cent dying before the age of one.
25 YEARS: BROWN BEAR LIFESPAN
Apart from humans, brown bears have few enemies – in Russia’s Far East, the Siberian tiger is a rare threat.
30 YEARS: LOWLAND TAPIR LIFESPAN
Tapirs are large, robust mammals. They may look like a meal for big cats such as jaguars, but they are rarely taken.
35 YEARS: WESTERN GORILLA LIFESPAN
Gorillas mature slowly and breed late – females give birth for the first time at the age of about 10, and have one baby every four years.
41 YEARS: BRANDT’S BAT LIFESPAN
Brandt’s bats live extraordinarily long lives considering their size.
56 YEARS: ELEPHANT LIFESPAN
Elephants are unusual among mammals other than humans in having a ‘use’ after they stop breeding – older females help to look after young calves.
80 YEARS: HUMANS LIFESPAN
We are the longest-lived land mammal, although there are a number of marine species that outlive us – bowhead whales can live for 200 years.
Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Fossil remains of elephant birds have been known since the 19th century, and the first full descriptions were made by French zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. During the 19th century, 13 species were described and classified into three genera—Aepyornis, Mullerornis, and Flacourtia. By the 21st century, however, studies using molecular and morphological techniques consolidated several species, reducing the count to between four and eight.
Elephant bird remains are abundant, and fossil evidence indicates that each species was massively constructed, with conical beaks, short thick legs, three-toed feet, and relatively small wings that were useless for flight. Thus, researchers suggest that these birds were probably slow-moving inhabitants of forests.
Some forms of Aepyornis attained very large size, approaching 3 metres (10 feet) high and weighing about 450 kg (1,000 pounds). The largest known species, V. titan, stood at least 3 metres high and weighed on average about 650 kg (1,400 pounds);
however, some estimates suggest that the largest individuals could have weighed as much as 860 kg (1,900 pounds), making it the world’s largest known bird.
The fossilized remains of elephant bird eggs are also relatively common. Their eggs were the largest eggs laid by any animal. The egg length and width of A. maximus ranged between 26.4 and 34 cm (10.4 and 13.4 inches) and 19.4 and 24.5 cm (7.6 and 9.6 inches), respectively.
Elephant birds occurred relatively late in the fossil record.
They were primitive members of the ratites, an evolutionary lineage that includes ostriches, rheas, and emus. Elephant birds survived on Madagascar well into the period of the island’s human occupation, and carbon dating studies suggest that the longest-surviving elephant bird species,
A. hildebrandti, lasted in the island’s central highland region until roughly 1,560–1,300 years ago. Scientists note that the group’s demise likely resulted from a combination of climate and vegetation change, hunting pressure from humans, and habitat loss due to deforestation.