[extropy-chat] Addwaita:250 years is a long time.

Joao Magalhaes joao at genetics.med.harvard.edu
Fri Mar 31 21:30:28 UTC 2006

Thank you, Robert.

Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible for Addwaita to be 250 years old; 
I'm just saying that we can't confirm it. As for the Aldabra tortoise 
record in my database, I don't remember for sure but I believe this refers 
to the specimen kept at a British fort in Mauritius. While this claim might 
also be classified as anecdotal, it has been investigated by some of the 
earlier people keeping track of longevity records (Flower, Comfort, etc.), 
making it a lot more plausible.

There are plenty of similar dubious cases either a product of tracking 
errors or wishful thinking: a 49 year-old cow, dogs living 30 years, lab 
mice living 6 years, etc. Unless they are clearly errors, I mention such 
cases in my database -- I'll certainly add Addwaita --, but only if they 
have been verified by credible experts do I include them as the longevity 
record-holders for that particular species. For instance, a couple of 
months ago, someone pointed out to me a 86 year-old elephant that died at a 
Taipei zoo. I did some research and found out that the animal only lived 
about 60 years at the zoo -- by no means a record --, being acquired at an 
unknown age, and thus without any way of finding its true age at death. I 
mentioned the case in the observations but did not consider it the 
longest-lived elephant.

The Madagascar radiated tortoise is also classified as anecdotal in my 
database, BTW, even though I mention it.

If Aldabra tortoises grow throughout its life, and I'm not sure but I 
believe they do, then it might be possible to estimate Addwaita's age at 
death from its body weight and size at the time of death.



At 02:49 AM 28/3/2006, you wrote:

>My dictionary ("The Collaborative International Dictionary of English", 
>apparently derived from Webster (1913)) defines "anecdote" as:
>   "A particular or detached incident or fact of an interesting nature; a 
> biographical incident or fragment; a single passage of private life."
>Joao's problem is that the documentation is a collection of stories... who 
>brought the tortoise to India, how long Lord Robert Clive kept him in his 
>garden, etc. -- the more robust documentation is only from when the 
>tortoise became a resident at the Calcutta zoo in 1875.  But there is no 
>good way of verifying that that tortoise was not obtained from the 
>Seychelles in 1875 instead of much earlier (all of the people involved are 
>now dead).  So one may only have individual accounts (dairies, an 
>occasional newspaper story, etc.) and so one may have significant 
>difficulty confirming them.
>The somewhat less anecdotal tortoise longevity story involves a Madagascar 
>radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata), known as "Tui Malila" which 
>Captain James Cook presented to the Tongan royal family in 1773 or 
>1777.  That tortoise was either 188 or 192 years old at its death in 1965.
>Joao is one of the world's authorities in this area (documenting the 
>maximum longevities of various species).  If he could reasonably 
>extend  the longevity of a species I suspect that he would -- but one 
>doesn't become an "authority" by making assertions that can easily be 
>It will be interesting to see if efforts to date Addwaita using carbon 
>dating will yield any useful information (I don't believe the carbon 
>dating can be used with much certainty for periods of hundreds of years).
>extropy-chat mailing list
>extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org


Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, PhD

Harvard Medical School, Dept. of Genetics
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Room 238
Boston, MA 02115
Telephone: 1-617-432-6512


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