What is the oldest organism still alive today?
Scientists at the University of Western Australia have now sequenced the DNA of a patch of Posidonia oceanica, a seagrass of the Mediterranean Sea, to determine its age. And, as it turns out, some parts are up to 200,000 years old, which easily beats that of the previously-believed record-holder, a Tasmanian plant around 43,000 years old.
How could this be possible? The seagrass, also known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed, grows in massive clumps and is continuously growing new branches and expanding. The seagrass reproduces asexually by cloning, and spreads far and wide so that it can survive even if one particular area becomes depleted of natural resources.
To put this age into perspective, 200,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans were just evolving in Africa, while we only reached “behavioral modernity” around 50,000 years ago.