Ranked: The Life Expectancy of Humans and 49 Other Animals
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Ranked: The Life Expectancy of Humans and 49 Other Animals

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life expectancy of humans compared to animals

Ranked: The Life Expectancy of Humans and 49 Other Animals

For most of history, average life expectancy at birth for humans has stood around 30 years. But thanks to recent breakthroughs in technology and modern medicine, humans are now born with an average life expectancy closer to 80 years.

Some might argue this is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. With this rise in life expectancy, how do human lifespans now rank compared to other animals?

This graphic from Alan’s Factory Outlet covers the life expectancy of 50 different animals ranging from amphibians to arthropods, and even includes one species that’s immortal (well, in theory).

Let’s take a closer look at lifespans in the animal kingdom.

The Longest Living Things

Here are some of the longest living animals, where even with advancements in modern medicine, humans are likely far off from matching.

The Deep-Sea Tube Worm

The deep-sea tube worm, also known as Riftia pachyptila, lives until about 250 years old, though in some cases this can stretch much further.

Amazingly, they have no digestive system, mouth, or anus, and thus do not consume food to survive in a traditional sense. Instead, the bacteria living inside their bodies helps to transform the sulfur from nearby hydrothermal vents into energy.

This makes the deep-sea tube worm one of the few animals on Earth that does not derive its nutrients (either directly or indirectly) from sunlight.

The Immortal Jellyfish

The immortal jellyfish, otherwise known as Turritopsis dohrnii, is biologically immortal.

How is this possible?

Essentially, these creatures revert and transition backwards from sexual maturity towards sexual immaturity in a process called transdifferentiation—where adult cells are converted into other types of tissue. Not surprisingly, processes like these are getting plenty of human attention in gene therapy and scientific research.

Giant Barrel Sponge

The giant barrel sponge can live for 2,300 years. These cool creatures live on the reef surface of the ocean, and are bowl shaped, which provides habitat for many other invertebrates including crabs, shrimps, as well as fish. In addition, sponges have no tissue and each of their individual cells can do the same job of any other cell.

Some experiments have even shown sponges reform and have their cells swim back together when blended up in a blender. If they didn’t, that would be a very cruel experiment.

Human Lifespans: A Rising Trend To Watch

The number of centenarians—those 100 or more years old—stands at 570,000 today.

Here are the countries where they are most common compared to their respective populations.

Country/Region% Of Population
Japan0.062%
Uruguay0.061%
Hong Kong0.047%
Puerto Rico0.045%
France0.030%
Spain0.028%
Italy0.028%
Cuba0.027%

While figures in the one-hundredth of a percent range may sound underwhelming, this is still a 1,500% jump from the 33,000 centenarians that lived in the 1950s.

Slowly but surely, as human life expectancy continues to grow, our species seems destined to climb up the age ladder—and who knows, we may even be able to eventually live beyond some of the other creatures on this list.

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Science

Explainer: The Basics of DNA and Genetic Systems

All living things have a genetic system made up of DNA. This graphic explores the basics of DNA composition and structure.

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Explainer: The Basics of DNA and Genetic Systems

While there is great diversity among living things, we all have one thing in common—we all rely on a genetic system made up of DNA and/or RNA.

But how do genetic systems work, and to what extent do they vary across species?

This graphic by Anne-Lise Paris explores the basics of DNA and genetic systems, including how they’re structured, and how they differ across species.

Composition of Genetic Systems: DNA and RNA

A genetic system is essentially a set of instructions that dictate our genetic makeup—what we look like and how we interact with our environment.

This set of instructions is stored in nucleic acids, the two main types being deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).

While most living things rely on a mix of DNA and RNA for cellular reproduction, some viruses just use RNA to store their genetic information and replicate faster.

DNA is made up of four molecules, known as nucleotides: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine ( C), and Guanine (G). These nucleotides are grouped in sets of two, which are called base pairs.

Size of Genomes Across Different Organisms

Human DNA is made up of approximately 3.2 billion base pairs that are tightly wound up and stored in our cells. If you were to unwind and measure the DNA stored in a single human cell, it would be about 2 meters (6.5 feet) long!

This lengthy DNA is stored in pairs of chromosomes. A full collection of chromosomes, or an entire set of genetic information, is referred to as a genome.

Genomes vary in size, depending on the organism. Here is a look at 24 different species and the size of their genomes, from animals and plants to bacteria and viruses:

OrganismKingdomSize of genomes (number of base pairs)
Poplar treePlant500,000,000
HumanAnimal3,200,000,000
ChimpanzeeAnimal3,300,000,000
Marbled lungfishAnimal130,000,000,000
DogAnimal2,400,000,000
WheatPlant16,800,000,000
PufferfishAnimal400,000,000
Canopy plantPlant150,000,000,000
Mouse-ear cressPlant140,000,000
CornPlant2,300,000,000
MouseAnimal2,800,000,000
MossPlant510,000,000
Fruit FlyAnimal140,000,000
C. ruddiiBacteria160,000
S. pombeFungi13,000,000
S. cerevisiaeFungi12,000,000
S. cellulosumBacteria13,000,000
H. pyloriBacteria1,700,000
E. coliBacteria4,600,000
Panadoravirus s.Virus2,800,000
HIV-1Virus9,700
Influenza AVirus14,000
BacteriophageVirus49,000
Hepatitis D virusVirus1,700

The Marbled Lungfish has the largest known animal genome. Its genome is made up of 130 billion base pairs, which is about 126.8 billion more than the average human genome.

Comparatively, small viruses and bacteria have fewer base pairs. The Hepatitis D virus has only 1,700 base pairs, while E. coli bacteria has 4.6 million. Interestingly, research has not found a link between the size of a species’ genome and the organism’s size or complexity.

In fact, there are still a ton of unanswered questions in the field of genome research. Why do some species have small genomes? Why do some have a ton of redundant DNA? These are still questions being investigated by scientists today.

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Explainer: The Different Types of Volcanoes on Earth

This graphic provides a brief introduction to volcanoes, explaining their different types of shapes and sizes, and how they erupt.

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Infographic explaining how volcanoes are formed and different types

Explainer: The Different Types of Volcanoes on Earth

Even if you don’t live near a volcano, you’ve been impacted by their activity.

It’s estimated that more than 80% of our planet’s surface has been shaped by volcanic activity. They’ve helped create our mountain ranges, plains, and plateaus, and have even helped fertilize the land that we now use to grow crops.

These critical mounds come in many shapes and sizes. This graphic by Giulia De Amicis provides a brief introduction to volcanoes, explaining their different types of shapes and eruptions.

Types of Eruptions

A volcano starts to form when molten rock rises from a crack in the Earth’s surface, which often emerge along tectonic plate boundaries.

Magma rises to the Earth’s surface because it’s lighter than rock. When it surfaces or erupts, it’s referred to as lava.

There are various types of volcanic eruptions, depending on the lava’s temperature, thickness, and composition. Generally speaking, high gas content and high ​​viscosity lead to explosive eruptions, while low viscosity and gas content lead to an effusive, or steadily flowing, eruption.

The Four Main Types of Volcanoes

Volcanoes vary in size and structure, depending on how they’re formed. Most volcanoes types fall into four main groups:

Shield Volcanoes

Shield volcanoes are built slowly, from low-viscosity lava that spreads far and quick. The lava eventually dries to form a thin, wide sheet, and after repeated eruptions, a mount starts to form.

From the top, these types of volcanoes look like a shield, hence the name. While these volcanoes take a while to form, they aren’t necessarily low. In fact, the world’s tallest active volcano, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is a shield volcano.

Stratovolcanoes

Also known as composite volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are built relatively fast, at least compared to shield volcanoes. This is because, in between lava eruptions, composite volcanoes emit ash and rock, which helps add structure to the mound rather quickly.

Some well-known composite volcanoes are Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount St. Helens in Washington, and Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

Volcanic Domes

Opposite to shield volcanoes, volcanic domes are formed when lava is highly-viscous. Because the thick lava can’t travel very far, it starts to pool around the volcano’s vent.

This can sometimes create a pressure build-up, meaning dome volcanoes are prone to explosive eruptions.

Cinder Cones

These types of volcanoes typically don’t release lava. Rather, their eruptions typically emit volcanic ash and rocks, known as pyroclastic products.

Cinder cones are characterized by a bowl-shaped crater at the top, and usually don’t exceed 400 m (1,312 ft) in height.

How Volcanoes Benefit the Earth

Volcanoes have a number of ecological benefits. Once broken down, volcanic materials create exceptionally fertile soil, which can help build prospering new habitats for animals and plants.

Volcanic eruptions can also help cool our climate. When a volcano explodes, ash and sulfur gas from the eruption combine with water droplets and get trapped in the atmosphere for years. This has a cooling effect which is extremely beneficial to us, especially given our current global warming situation.

Dr. Tracy Gregg, associate professor for the University at Buffalo’s geology department, told Accuweather that “volcanoes have actually helped to keep the world about 2 to 3 degrees cooler than it otherwise may be.”

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