Jonathan: the world's oldest turtle turns 190

This milestone makes it the oldest land animal in the world

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Jonathan: the world's oldest turtle turns 190

Jonathan the turtle turned 190. This milestone makes it the oldest land animal in the world. Jonathan is a giant tortoise from the Seychelles. It is a subspecies of the Aldabra giant tortoise previously thought to be extinct and only recently rediscovered, thanks to the identification of specimens in zoos and parks.

It has a wider and less ossified carapace, with a typical dome shape, but not all herpetologists recognize the three subspecies. These animals are slow, confidant with man, easy to catch and keep on ships, therefore thousands were caught and transported before being transformed into meals.

Jonathan is celebrating his birthday during which he was offered a cake full of fruit and vegetables which he is fond of. Jonathan lives together with other specimens in the garden of the Plantation House, the permanent residence of the Governor of Saint Helena, on the homonymous island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Its official age has been established on the basis of a very old photograph from 1886 and from the date of landing on Saint Helena in 1882. Since the tortoise arrived on the island completely mature, and since total maturity is reached at 50 years of age, it is deduces that when Jonathan arrived at Plantation House he must have been born in at least 1832.

The main population of the Aldabra giant tortoise resides in the Aldabra Atoll of the same name in the Seychelles. The atoll is protected from human influence and is home to around 100,000 giant tortoises, the world's largest population of these animals.

Smaller populations of A. gigantea in the Seychelles are also present in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park and on La Digue, where they are a popular tourist attraction. Another isolated population of the species resides on the island of Changuu, near Zanzibar, and other captive populations reside in protected parks in Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Aldabra giant tortoises live in many different habitats, including grasslands, scrublands, mangrove swamps, and coastal dunes. Among other long-living creatures, Greenland sharks can live up to 400 years, while some oceanic clams live over 1,000 years.

The immortal jellyfish can regress to a larval state indefinitely and, theoretically at least, may never die.