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400-Year-Old Shark Breaks Age Record

Researchers award title of longest-living vertebrate to the Greenland shark, which almost doubles the second-place winner’s age.

Scientists recently declared the Greenland shark to be the longest-living vertebrate, with some specimens reaching the ripe old age of four centuries. This nearly doubles the previous record set by a 211-year-old bowhead whale. The Greenland shark can grow to be more than 15 feet long, but grows only less than half an inch per year. Females take more than 150 years to reach sexual maturity, and of the 28 sharks researchers studied, a female was the longest and therefore determined to be oldest. Scientists calculated her age using radiocarbon dating, which is not very accurate, so they estimate she is somewhere between 272 and 512 years old, but most likely in the middle of that scale. Julius Nielsen, lead author of the paper published in Science magazine, said, "Even with the lowest part of this uncertainty, 272 years, even if that is the maximum age, it should still be considered the longest-living vertebrate." But if the shark studied proves to be at the upper end of the age range, she may take the title of most aged animal, which currently belongs to a 507-year-old chowder clam named Ming.

Photo courtesy of Doug Perrinne

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