Cheating Death

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 08.12.10
  • NOVA scienceNOW

What are the limits of a life span? No human, as far as we know, has made it past 122 years, but a bristlecone pine tree in central California is still hanging on after nearly 5,000. Then there are instances of almost miraculous resurrection, in which dormant bacteria have been reawakened after millions of years. In this slide show, see a range of death-defying cases and glimpse the secrets of their longevity.

Launch Interactive

From a 122-year-old woman to the oldest organism on Earth, explore cases of remarkable longevity.



(Jeanne Calment)
© Associated Press
(George the lobster)
© Neilson Barnard/Getty
(Galapagos Giant Tortoise)
© photoBlueIce/iStockphoto
© oversnap/iStockphoto
© Luismmolina/iStockphoto
(Judaen date palm)
from Sallon, Sarah et. al. 2008. "Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed." Science 320 (5882), 1464. Reprinted with permission from AAAS.
(honey mushrooms)
© AntoinetteW/iStockphoto
(bristlecone pine)
© Ken Babione/iStockphoto
(bee in amber)
Courtesy George Poinar
(salt crystal)
Courtesy Jack Griffith

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