Oldest living vertebrate? This incredible shark may be over 500 years old and still kicking

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The Greenland shark can easily live up to 400 years and now, we may have just found the oldest one!

Scientists believe that they have found what they think is the world’s oldest vertebrate in the form of an 18-foot long Greenland shark that could possibly be more than 500 years old. The shark was discovered and seen in the North Atlantic Ocean a few months ago but the research results and findings were only published this week.

Greenland Shark (Source: Twitter)

Researchers published their findings in the journal Science and revealed what the age of the animal could possibly be. According to marine biologist Julius Nielsen, this shark is nothing less than 272 years old and is closer towards being 512 years old.

The Greenland Shark (Source: Pinterest) 

The International Business Times noted that this shark was probably born before famous figures such as Shakespeare.  Greenland sharks are known to live for long periods of time and could possibly live for a couple of centuries. They could easily be at least a 100 years old by the time they reach sexual maturity.

Julius Nielson (Source: Twitter)

Using radiocarbon dating, the researchers were able to analyze 28 Greenland sharks. They used this method to determine the oldest vertebrate’s actual age. Nielson agrees that there could be possible margins of error in determining the shark’s youngest and oldest possible age.

The International Business Times quoted a previous study which was conducted by Arctic University of Norway professor, Kim Praebel, which stated that Greenland sharks could indeed live up to 400 years. Attempts to accurately determine the actual age of these sharks have been unsuccessful so far.

The Greenland Shark (Source: Pinterest) 

However, Nielson’s research also utilized mathematical modeling which focused on the shark’s lens and cornea to try and link their size with their possible age. University of Iceland shark expert, Steve Campana, said: “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,” said Steve Campana to Inhabitat.

Steve Campana (Source: Facebook)

Greenland sharks tend to live in the deep and frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Canada and Norway. These sharks are known to scavenge the carcasses of polar bears. However, this is not their main or primary source of food and is only when there happens to be a bear carcass floating around.

In a photograph that Nielson shared, the remains of a polar bear were seen in the stomach of the shark which aligns with the above the theory. According to the Florida Museum’s fact sheet, these sharks could grow to be an average length of 14 feet and could easily reach a maximum of 24 feet.

Greenland Shark feasting on seal (Source: Pinterest) 

The particular shark which is believed to be the oldest vertebrate is a prime example of its species and is around 18 feet in length. It is possible that the shark took a few centuries to reach its great length. They tend to grow only four-tenths (1cm) of an inch per year.


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