In the depths of the North Atlantic, scientists have uncovered a Greenland shark believed to be a staggering 512 years old, positioning it as potentially the oldest living vertebrate known to humanity. The Greenland shark, with its bulky gray body, small head, ghostly eyes, and ever-open mouth, may not win any beauty contests. But its longevity has captured the fascination of marine biologists worldwide.
Frequently targeted by worm-like parasites that affix themselves to the shark’s eyes, these creatures have been under observation by biologist Julius Nilsson and his team. They’ve been studying a specific 18-foot Greenland shark, estimating its age to be between 272 to 512 years. While it’s known that Greenland sharks can live for centuries, this new research suggests they could have lifespans extending even further.
These sharks, which largely swim the depths in search of mates, could unlock the mysteries of longevity in various species, humans included. The key to the shark’s extended lifespan? It might lie in the combination of its slow metabolism and the frigid waters it calls home, stretching from Canada to Norway.
Age determination in these creatures has recently been fine-tuned. By examining the lens and cornea of the eye, researchers can associate size with age. Growing at a mere 1 centimeter annually, the age of Greenland sharks can be approximated by their size. The 18-foot specimen in question weighed over a ton and, based on size calculations, might have first swam the oceans as far back as 1505. This means it could have been around even before Shakespeare penned his first play.
To truly grasp the significance of a 512-year lifespan, imagine this: the shark might have been alive when European settlers first touched down on Panama’s shores in 1508. This incredible creature deserves recognition as one of the oldest animals on our planet.