Oldest Living Organism More Than 80,000 Years Old

The Pando grove of quaking aspen is the oldest living organism on the planet. While it is, in truth, a single tree, it appears to contain 47000 trees.  It is Utah in the USA that contains the Pando Aspen tree. It is the most ancient clonal colony of quaking aspen and has an age of more than 80000 years.

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Oldest Living Organism More Than 80,000 Years Old
Oldest Living Organism More Than 80,000 Years Old
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The oldest living organism on the planet is tree and it more than 80,000 years old

We introduce to you the Pando tree grove of quaking aspen. Or as it is also known, the Trembling Giant. It’s the most ancient and enormous singular living organism on our planet. By most conservative estimates, the age of Pando is more than 80 000 years!

 

Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history
Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history

 

This biological miracle is growing on the rocky mountains of the Fishlake National Park in the state of Utah (USA)

The clonal colony of quaking aspens covers more than 43 hectares and includes 47000 trees. The total combined weight of the roots and trees is around 6000 tons!

It’s hard to believe that such young and thin trees may be 80000 years old. In fact, on average, each tree is around 130 years old. Nevertheless, the root system is the most ancient living organism on the Earth.

Scientists performed radiocarbon analysis on samples and identified that this living organism is likely 80 000 years old. Some experts think that Pando may be more than one million years old. However, they weren’t able to find samples of such an age.

 

Uniform organism with the largest tree root system

Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history - Uniform organism
Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history – Uniform organism

Why is this grove considered to be a single organism? Because it has one root system, and all the trees have an identical genetic code. In fact, the quaking aspen is cloning itself.

Reproduction via seed is not reliable for quaking aspens. In just a couple of days after reaching the ground, they lose their potential to grow. Meanwhile, the vegetative reproduction, when new trees grow from the roots of old ones, enable this colony to achieve incredible speeds of reproduction.

 

Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history - History of Pando
Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history – History of Pando

It seems that the conditions in Utah are perfect for the development and expansion of the root system. Even frequent fires, which occur regularly, are not able to damage Pando.

Despite fires burning these trees the roots remain alive and untouched. Fire destroyed all the other tress on the ground, and as the quaking aspen had no competitors, it managed to become the Trembling Giant.

The root system is so powerful that you won’t find any other trees in a surrounding territory of 43 hectares. However, there are a lot of different trees that surround the colony. When an old tree is dying, it leaves a new sprout.

 

History of Pando

Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history - The record of the Trembling Giant
Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history – The record of the Trembling Giant

 

Burton Barnes discovered the clonal group of Pando in 1968. This scientist, from the University of Michigan, began actively exploring the Trembling Giant during the 70’s.

He described and thoroughly examined this living organism, using molecular analysis methods, which gradually developed during the passage of time.

Even though North America contains various clonal groups, their average size does not exceed 0.1 hectares. It’s still unknown how Pando managed to occupy such a huge territory.

The aspen grove is a local attraction, and it’s well-kept and maintained.  Pando is assumed to now be dying. New sprouts appear at a slower rate than the rate at which old trees are dying. Fungus and various insects cause this situation.

 

The Rangers at the Fishlake National Park are employing different experimental methods on selected sectors of around 2-5 hectares to try to increase the number of new trees and the speed of reproduction.

We still don’t know if such methods will be useful and if they can stop the death of this massive system. Still, other experts wonder if Pando may have already faced such periods in its history, and such slow growth periods alternated with times of active growth.

 

The record of the Trembling Giant

Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history - The record of the Trembling Giant
Pando aspen grove – trees with more than 80 000 years of history – The record of the Trembling Giant

 

There is official recognition that Pando is the largest and most ancient living organism on the Earth. This botanical miracle will stay in the Guinness Book of World Records for a long time! Nothing in this world has managed to overcome Pando yet.

The main competitors to Pando are a sprawling fungus from Oregon, the oldest creosote bush ring “King Clone” in the Mojave Desert that is possibly more than 11 700 years old and the colony of Posidonia Oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

How can one see Pando?

The best time to see Pando is in the autumn. You can find it by walking along the Lakeshore National Recreation Trail. Climb the Mytoge Mountain at the southern part of the lake, and after a short 5-6 km hike, you will reach a viewing point that has the most fantastic and picturesque views over the entire colony.

The golden Trembling Giant will not leave you unmoved!

 

YOUTUBE (Pando Populus):

Image credit: Bart via flockr.com

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