In the northern Atlantic Ocean resides the oldest living vertebrate on the planet, a shark native to Greenland. This discovery has astonished experts as it’s estimated to have an average age of 500 years.
Observers had previously encountered this mysterious creature; in fact, it had graced the covers of several magazines in 2016. However, it was later established that it was born in the year 1505.
The Oldest Shark in the World
Greenland sharks are known for their extraordinarily long lifespans. This is attributed to being considered the slowest-growing animals on the planet, reaching maturity at a staggering 150 years.
Typically, these creatures live between 270 to 400 years. Nevertheless, a female shark was discovered to have exceeded this threshold, estimated to be around 500 years old.
It’s worth noting that in the past, experts used size as a determining factor in estimating the age of these animals. Although not entirely accurate, it was a closely approximate parameter since they tend to grow only one centimeter per year. Thus, the larger the size, the longer their lifespan.
However, with time, it was determined that this method was not precise nor reliable, as they all grow to about 5 meters, making all sharks reach that size and be considered ancient. But their exact age? It was impossible to determine.
A New Study
Biologists and scientists proposed a new method, detailed in the journal Science, involving measuring the amount of radiocarbon present in the eye lenses of the creatures. The test was conducted on 28 specimens, revealing that the species itself was ancient, but one female shark stood out among all.
Scientists and biologists were content with their task of determining the age of the sharks and likewise with the results obtained. However, there remains an unknown for which they are still seeking appropriate methods to test and thereby obtain results that could provide answers to their query.
The question now is why these sharks have such slow growth, enabling them to live for so many years, unlike other animals. Especially in specimens between 300 and 500 years old.
It is hoped that science will manage to determine the proper procedures and efficiently and promptly obtain answers to the question that plagues us all. Could this shark be the only animal to surpass 500 years of age?
- Radiocarbon in the eye lens reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) – An article from science.org https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaf1703