A study of 28 Greenland sharks has discovered that one female may well be around 400 years in age, making her the oldest vertebrate known to man. By measuring proteins in the sharks’ eye lens, scientists estimated that the 5m-long fish was between 272, and 512 years old.
The slow-moving, slow-growing Greenland shark is thought to reach sexual maturity around 150 years old, which is becoming a problem given that the older generations of sharks may well still be recovering from massive overfishing before WW2, when their oil was used in machinery.
"When you evaluate the size distribution all over the North Atlantic, it is quite rare that you see sexually mature females, and quite rare that you find new-born pups or juveniles," lead author of the study, Julian Nielsen, explained. "There is, though, still a very large amount of 'teenagers', but it will take another 100 years for them to become sexually active."
The recent discovery of this ancient animal is bad news for a certain 211-year-old bowhead whale, who was previously thought to be the world’s most veteran vertebrate, but the geriatric Greenland shark will have to go some way before it can snatch the temporal title from the oldest animal in history...a 507-year-old clam called Ming.
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