Black coral
Figure 1. Black coral

How long do they live? Coral live in something called colonies and a colony age cannot be directly compared to normal aging as we know it. I’ll explain why in the reproductive section. A colony of black coral in Hawaii was estimated to be around 4,265 years old [1], which is why I decided to place them on the list of long-lived animals.

Where are they found? All throughout the tropics, but that 4,265 year old colony was found in Hawaii.

What do they eat? They eat phytoplankton, decomposing organic matter, and bacteria from decomposing plants.

What do they look like? See figures 1 and 2.

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Figure 2. Black coral polyps

How do they reproduce? Not like us at all. Coral polyps live together in a colony (see figure 2), and that colony came from a single polyp that fertilized itself. Once fertilized, a single polyp will bud off a copy of itself, resulting in two identical polyps. Those two polyps will do the same thing, and this process can go on for hundreds of thousands of years. So, technically they make clones of themselves, but hey, 4,265 years warranted a note about them here. They do participate in sexual reproduction and you can read more about it here [2].

How do scientists know how old they are? Radiocarbon dating [13].

So what are we lacking? There’s no information regarding the nuclear genome of Leiopathes on the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) website.

Please contact me if you have information that you think would be valuable to longevity researchers.

  1. Roark, E. Brendan, et al. “Extreme longevity in proteinaceous deep-sea corals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106.13 (2009): 5204-5208.
  2. Wagner, Daniel, Rhian G. Waller, and Robert J. Toonen. “Sexual reproduction of Hawaiian black corals, with a review of the reproduction of antipatharians (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia).” Invertebrate Biology 130.3 (2011): 211-225.
  3. Adkins, J. A., et al. “Radiocarbon dating of deep-sea corals.” Radiocarbon44.2 (2002).