Danish scientists have caught a shark believed to be an impressive 512 years old – meaning it would have been born before William Shakespeare.
The shark is believed to be the oldest living vertebrate ever discovered.
Experts determined its age by using the shark’s length – which is an impressive 18ft – and found it was the oldest of a group of 28 Greenland sharks analysed for a study.
The Greenland shark was found in the North Atlantic Ocean by Julius Nielsen, lead author of the research from the University of Copenhagen, and a team of marine biologists who were out studying the fascinating creatures.
This particular species of shark, which only grow around one centimetre a year, have been known to live for hundreds of years – with previous articles suggesting some living up to 400 years.
The oldest shark the biologists found was recorded as being 392 years old – but as radiocarbon dating has a 95 per cent certainty, the shark’s true age could be more like 392 + 120 years (512), research in the study Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark says.
Previous studies have concluded the species reach sexual maturity at about 150 years of age. Old!
Now, if she’s as old as scientists suggest, it would have meant the shark would have been lurking in the waters during major world events including the founding of the US, the World Wars, the sinking of the Titanic… the list goes on.
Greenland sharks live off fish but they have never been observed hunting – in the past, they have been found to have remains of reindeer, horses, moose and even polar bear in their stomachs.
Their flesh is considered a delicacy in Iceland, but unless it’s treated first, it is also toxic – it contains a chemical that when eaten gives a sensation similar to feeling incredibly drunk.
Professor Kim Praebel, leading previous research, said the sharks were ‘living time capsules’ that could help ‘shed light on human impact on the ocean’s.
Many of the sharks were so old they were around before the industrial revolution and the introduction of large-scale commercial fishing.
Professor Praebel said:
The longest living vertebrate species on the planet has formed several populations in the Atlantic Ocean. This is important to know, so we can develop appropriate conservation actions for this important species.
Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland said previously:
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 1000 years.
The official title of the world’s longest recorded living animal is held by Ming, an Icelandic clam known as an ocean quahog, that made it to 507 years, writes The Guardian.
Ming probably would have lived longer if he wasn’t murdered though. Scientists who were trying to work out how old he was ended up… ending his life.
Now if that’s not heartbreaking, I don’t know what is.