Have you ever wondered what the oldest-living vertebrae on the planet is? Well, you’re in luck. Researchers recently found an ancient shark in the North Atlantic, which they believe is about 512-years-old. Because of its age, it could be the oldest living vertebrae in the world.
Though the shark was discovered months ago, only recently was its potential age shared in a study published in the journal Science. Marine biologist Julius Neilsen discovered the shark and, with the help of his team, determined that it is at least 272 years old and as old as 512 years. Only after Neilsen completed his PhD thesis on Greenland sharks did the news finally surface.
As the International Business Times (IBT) reports, the discovery slightly contrasts with that which was published by professor Kim Praebel, from the Arctic University of Norway, earlier this year. Praebel found that Greenland sharks could have a lifespan of up to 400 years. However, this latest research suggests Greenland sharks can live to be much older.
Because they grow at a rate of one centimeter per year, scientists were able to determine the sharks’ ages by measuring their size. To be certain, they also used a mathematical model which analyzes the lens and the cornea that links size with age. The latter method was discovered last year.
After measuring the Greenland shark Neilsen found, the researchers concluded that it could have been born as early as 1505. That would make it older than Shakespeare! “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said Neilsen.
Said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland: “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 1,000 years.”
Reportedly, Praebel had been researching how Greenland sharks’ “long life” genes could provide information on what determines longevity in various species, including humans. “This is the longest living vertebrate on the planet,” he said. “Together with colleagues in Denmark, Greenland, USA, and China, we are currently sequencing its whole nuclear genome which will help us discover why the Greenland shark not only lives longer than other shark species but other vertebrates.”
“Since the Greenland shark lives for hundreds of years, they also have enough time to migrate over long distances and our genetic results showed exactly that,” Praebel added. ”Most of the individuals in our study were genetically similar to individuals caught thousands of kilometers away.
Still, it is unclear how the shark reached an age over 500-years-old. The New Yorker proposed a theory, stating: “The answer likely has to do with a very slow metabolism and the cold waters that they inhabit.” Neilsen isn’t so sure, however. “I’m just the messenger on this. I have no idea,” he said.
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