If you think turtles live a long time, their lives are merely the blink of an eye for a Greenland shark.
A new study estimates that Greenland sharks can live upwards of 400 years, making them the longest-living vertebrates—smashing the previous record held by more than a century.
This news comes as somewhat of a surprise to scientists. Greenland sharks were always thought to have long lifespans. A previous study proved that the 15 foot shark grows at less than half an inch per year. But the revelation that they live through four centuries is definitely big news.
Marine biologist John Steffensen from the University of Copenhagen collected the lenses of the shark’s eyes and used an increasingly common method for dating organisms called the “bomb pulse” technique. With this, researchers look for unusually high amounts of Carbon 14 that infiltrated the ocean ecosystem during the influx of atomic bomb testing in the 1950s.
This provides a concrete date for the age of the specimens and allows the researchers to create a growth curve. For example, the 6-foot-long sharks used for the carbon testing are only 60 years old. That means sharks reaching 15 feet are likely 400 years in age.
Read more in this informative article published in Science Magazine.
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