The wonders of nature never cease to surprise us. The newest wonder comes from Denmark. News that Danish scientists have caught a shark probably doesn’t sound too spectacular, but in fact, they believe it could be 512 years old! This means that it may have been born even before Shakespeare!
Now, this is a great scientific discovery. The shark is believed to be the oldest living vertebrate ever discovered by humans. Its age was determined by experts by using the shark’s length – an impressive 18ft. When compared to a group of 28 Greenland sharks, it was the oldest among the group.
The shark was discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean by Julius Nielsen, a biologist from the University of Copenhagen and his team of marine biologists. Nielsen is one of Denmark’s leading researchers on the elasmobranch fish.
This species of shark grow about one centimeter a year and they have been known to live for hundreds of years, even up to 400. When examined using radiocarbon dating, the shark was discovered to be 392 years old; however, radiocarbon dating has a 95 percent certainty, which means that the shark could be 392 + 120 years (512) years old.
Some studies have shown that the species reach sexual maturity at about 150 years of age. Wow!
Greenland sharks live off fish but they have never been seen hunting. However, in the past, they have been found to have some remains of reindeer, horses, moose and even polar bear in their stomachs.
In Iceland, shark’s flesh is considered a delicacy but might be toxic if it isn’t treated first, as it contains a chemical which can make the consumer drunk.
Professor Kim Praebel from the University of Tromsø in Norway, who has worked on similar research in the past, said sharks were ‘living time capsules’ that could help ‘shed light’ on the impact human have on the oceans.
“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,” Praebel says.
Steven Campana, a shark expert from Reykjavik’s University of Iceland has commented on the timing of these discoveries:
“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.”
I guess better late than never, Professor.
Here is a story of an enormous shark jumping on a boat.