We know that most animal species have been around for some time; most of the ones we see in our lifetimes have been around since before us, and most of them will be around long after us. But what are the oldest animals out there? Which animals have been around for far longer than all of humankind? Here, we’ll explore that question and take a look at what animals have managed to survive and adapt for millions of years. This is Amazingly Old Animal Species!
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4. Velvet Worm
These adorable little creatures are not worms, but panarthropods. Their nickname, “Velvet Worm,” simply comes from them looking similar to worms and them feeling like velvet! There are more than 200 species of velvet worm, and they come in two families: Peripatopsidae and Peripatidae. The Peripatopsids are found living below the equator, and the Peripatids live in tropical and equatorial environments. They’re closely related to Tardigrades, which are some of the most unkillable animals around, and also to arthropods. Their bodies are segmented, and they can grow to be between .2 and 8 inches in length, with anywhere from 13 to 43 separate pairs of legs! They have what are called “slime glands,” properly designated as oral papillae, on the left and right sides of their mouths, on the third head segment, which produce a slime that’s milky-white in color. They use the slime to defend themselves and to catch prey by squirting the glue-like substance onto their dinner of choice, which immobilizes it. It is believed that velvet worms have been around since at least 550 million years ago, if not before that.
Brachiopods are lophotrochozoan (don’t ask) animals that have hard, protective shells on their top and bottoms, rather than their sides like bivalve mollusks. They use what’s called a pedicle, which is basically just a stalk-like projectile, to keep themselves anchored while underwater. These creatures live only in the seas and in waters that don’t have much light and is cold, and they tend to avoid areas with strong waves and currents. Their typical choices of homes include, but are not limited to, ocean caves, on the slopes of continental shelves, and attached to rocky overhangs. Some Brachiopod lineages have been traced back to at least 500 million years ago, as fossils have been found that date back to the early Cambrian period. Other lineages of these strange creatures have been shown to rise up and then go extinct, especially during mass-extinction events. Fossils of Brachiopods have been studied extensively, as scientists can analyze the fossils and look for indicators of climate change—something they are excellent at providing. More than 12,000 fossil species of Brachiopod are recognized, and they usually range from .039 to 3.937 inches in length, and some can grow to be between 12 and 15 inches wide!
2. Mary River Turtle
This excellent-looking, radical turtle is found in Queensland, Australia in the Mary River. It is a large-sized freshwater turtle that can grow to have carapace lengths up to around 20 inches, and they come in colors which range from black to a nice, rusty-red. Many Mary River turtles have green algae growing on various parts of their bodies, leading them to be nicknamed the “green-haired turtle,” as you can see in this picture! They also have a pretty unique, distinguishable tail that can grow to be nearly two-thirds as long as their carapace. They are omnivorous and seem to mostly snack on plants, but they’re also known to eat small animal prey, including bivalves. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the Mary River turtle was a popular pet and could be found in many pet shops. They happen to be the only species in their genus, and diverged from all other living species of turtle some 40 million years ago! That’s a long time ago, considering we’re said to have split from bonobos and chimps a mere 5 to 10 million years ago! Oh, and we know we put this where it doesn’t belong time-wise, but we couldn’t just show you this excellent turtle right off the bat, could we?