Animals

World's Oldest, Fattest Wombat Turns 29 Years Young

Celebrity marsupial becomes the latest Internet celebrity of the animal kingdom.

Patrick, the world's largest wombat -- weighing in at an astounding 88 pounds -- turned 29 years old on Aug. 24.

In recent days, a Facebook birthday greeting posted by Tourism Australia galvanized the Internet, which hit the pause button on cat videos while it "Liked" the birthday post in the tens of thousands. Also the world's most popular wombat, Patrick has been on the Today show and enjoys celebrity status at the Ballarat Wildlife Park in Australia, where he has lived his entire life.

VIDEO: Why Koalas Sound Like Barry White

Patrick is well beyond the lifespan of a wombat in the wild. Those that fend for themselves only live to see around 5 years of age. The disclosure, in the Tourism Australia birthday greeting, that Patrick is also the oldest wombat virgin has only endeared him all the more to his fans.

The wombat is the largest burrowing mammal on Earth and is largely nocturnal, making it tough to glimpse in the wild. It's not exactly a homebody, either, as a wombat can have a dozen or so burrows scattered throughout its home range. A handful of those burrows are its primary homes, connected by a secondary-tunnel network.

Fans of Patrick, and of wombats in general, may want to circle Oct. 22 on their calendars. That's, unofficially speaking, Wombat Day worldwide.

Patrick the Wombat

Rachel Sussman spent a decade working with biologists and traveling the globe to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. She traveled to remote locations from Greenland to Antarctica, Africa and Australia for her book

"

The Oldest Living Things in the World

."

Above, bristlecone pines are the oldest unitary organisms in the world, known to surpass 5,000 years in age. In the 1960s a then-grad student cut down what would have been the oldest known tree in the world while retrieving a lost coring bit. A cross section of that tree was placed in a Nevada casino.

PHOTOS: Sweet Methuselah! Oldest Animals on the Planet

This critically endangered eucalyptus is around 13,000 years old, and one of fewer than five individuals of its kind left on the planet. The species name might hint to heavily at its location, so it has been redacted.

What looks like moss covering rocks is actually a very dense, flowering shrub that happens to be a relative of parsley, living in the extremely high elevations of the Atacama Desert.

NEWS: Oldest Rock Speck Zeros In On Earth's Cooling Date

This 5,500-year-old moss bank lives right around the corner from where the Shackleton Expedition was marooned 100 years ago on Elephant Island, Antarctica. It was a victory simply being able to locate it. These days it's easier to get to Antarctica from space.

VIDEO: Found: Youngest Galaxy and Oldest Star!

At 100,000 years old, the Posidonia sea grass meadow was first taking root at the same time some of our earliest ancestors were creating the first known “art studio” in South Africa. It lives in the UNESCO-protected waterway between the islands of Ibiza and Formentera.

PHOTOS: Oldest Flowering Plant Genome Mapped: Photos

This 9,950-year-old tree is like a portrait of climate change. The mass of branches near the ground grew the same way for roughly 9,500 years, but the new, spindly trunk in the center is only 50 or so years old, caused by warming at the top of this mountain plateau in Western Sweden.

Living Fossils: Animals From Another Time