It’s difficult to imagine anything living now who was born in 1505. Martin Luther became a monk in that year, while King Henry VIII called off his engagement to Catherine of Aragon… in other words, a long time ago.
But that’s precisely what scientists think they’ve discovered in the shape of a giant Greenland shark swimming in the Arctic Ocean’s cold waters.
The shark is thought to be as ancient as 512 years, making it the world’s oldest living vertebrate and even older than Shakespeare. And you thought being 30 meant you were old.
Greenland sharks may live hundreds of years and spend the most of their time swimming about hunting for a partner. That’s an awfully long time to be waiting.
They also grow at a one-centimetre-per-year pace, allowing scientists to age them by measuring their size.
This shark, one of 28 Greenland sharks examined by experts, was 18 feet long and weighed more than a tonne, indicating that it may be anywhere between 272 and 512 years old.
According to the Sun, the shark’s age was disclosed in a research published in the Science journal.
If scientists are correct about the shark’s age, it lived during significant historical events such as the founding of the United States, the Industrial Revolution, and both World Wars. Crikey.
Greenland sharks consume largely fish, however they have never been seen hunting. In certain cases, reindeer and even horse bones have been discovered in their stomachs. In Norway, the animal is considered a delicacy, yet its meat may be toxic if not handled correctly.
Academics in Norway think that the bones and tissues of Greenland sharks may provide insight into the effect of climate change and pollution over time due to their lengthy lifespan.
Researchers at Norway’s Arctic University are tracing the animal’s DNA and studying its genes to understand more about what controls life expectancy in other animals, including humans.
Because many of the sharks predate the Industrial Revolution and large-scale commercial fishing, they’ve been dubbed “living time capsules” that might reveal how human behavior affects the seas.
Professor Kim Praebel, speaking at a conference organized by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, stated, “The oldest surviving vertebrate species on the globe has created numerous populations in the Atlantic Ocean.”
“We need to know this so we can establish proper conservation measures for this critically endangered species.”