Oldest Living Creature May Be a (Relative) Youngster

Giant tortoise may be much younger
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2008 4:29 PM CST
A giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands. Giant tortoises are believed to be the world's oldest living inhabitants.   (AP Photo/ Galapagos National Park)
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(Newser) – A giant tortoise widely believed to be the world's oldest living creature may be a much younger relative that earned the title through mistaken identity, the BBC reports. Jonathan, a giant tortoise said to have been living on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena when Napoleon was exiled there 193 years ago, may not have arrived on the island until decades later.

A 1901 photograph purports to show Jonathan, but that giant tortoise may have died 90 years ago. Under St. Helenian custom, a younger tortoise may now bear his name. "As they are very difficult to date, no one can say with any certainty that this current, reigning Jonathan is 176 or 150 or even 200," said an island historian.