400 Year-Old Shark Discovered - still swimming!

This old girl might be over 400 years old!
Scientist have long suspected that sharks, and invertebrates in general, are capable of living crazy long lives, but imagine finding out that the shark you reeled in had lived over 400 years!

That’s the scenario that played out for a group of scientists from Copenhagen this week, when they published a paper titled “Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland Shark.” 

By testing the protein levels in the sharks eyes, these scientists concluded that one female Greenland Shark was somewhere between 390 and 420 years old, based on the levels of Carbon-14 found. You see back in the 50’s, nuclear testing was all the rage, and so the atmosphere was filled with carbon-14. Previous to that time, levels of the stuff were so minimal, they could be considered non-existant – giving the scientists a benchmark. Sharks with no Carbon-14 inside their eyes were likely born prior to the 50’s. But wait on… That means they proved the shark was only 60-70 years old…

To make up the rest of the age gap, the growth rate of the sharks was used (amongst some other more sciency stuff). Greenland Sharks grow around one centimetre a year, for their whole lives, so with this old girl measuring over 4m, well, you can do the maths!

So with these individual sharks living through all of modern history as we know it, how would you feel if you ever hooked one up? Would you throw it back?

Full article published in Science Magazine with contributions from Julius Nielsen, Rasmus B. Hedeholm, Jan Heinemeier, Peter G. Bushnell, Jørgen S. Christiansen, Jesper Olsen, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Richard W. Brill, Malene Simon, Kirstine F. Steffensen and John F. Steffensen.