Researchers who discovered the 512-year-old shark believe that the shark could be the oldest living vertebrate in the world. Even though the researchers found the shark some months ago, they revealed its potential age in the journal Science.
Marine biologist Julius Nielsen and his team discovered an 18-foot Greenland shark and estimated it to be at least 272 years older, with a potential age of 512 years. It’s unknown when exactly the shark was discovered, however the news became of interest again, now that Neilsen has completed his PhD thesis concerning Greenland sharks.
Months ago, professor Kim Praebel from the Arctic University of Norway discovered that Greenland sharks could live as long as around 400 years. The recent research confirms that these species could live even longer. Researchers found a way to predict age thanks to a mathematical model which analyzes the lens and the cornea which links size to age. They discovered this method about one year ago.
Scientists measured the size of the recently discovered Greenland shark, suggesting that the 512-year-old shark could have been born as early as 1505, which means it could be older than Shakespeare. Greenland sharks, which are also known as grey sharks, are quite large and belong to the family Somniosidae, which grow at a rate of one centimeter a year, which helps scientists to determine their age after measuring their size.
Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland told the Guardian last year:
“Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success. Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.”
The Greenland sharks can be found deep in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, from Canada to Norway. The sharks are known to eat polar bear carcasses and are often attacked by parasites which latch onto their eyes. A few months ago, Nielsen shared a photo of polar bear leftovers which were extracted from the stomach of a Greenland shark.
“And no, I don’t think the shark attacked the bear,” Nielsen wrote in the caption of the photo, published on Instagram. “It is much more likely a carcass found by the shark. Polar bear remnants in Greenland shark stomachs are extremely rare and polar bears are considered of no importance as food source for sharks in Greenland waters.” Praebel was studying the “long life” genes of Greenland sharks, determining that the 512-year-old shark could help scientists discover more about life expectancy in different species of animals, including humans.
“This is the longest living vertebrate on the planet,” Professor Kim Praebel said at a symposium organized by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles. “Together with colleagues in Demark, Greenland, USA, and China, we are currently sequencing its whole nuclear genome which will help us discover why the Greenland shark not only lives longer than other shark species but other vertebrates.”