A team of researchers from The University of Copenhagen conducted a study on the greenland shark, the largest fish in the North Arctic waters and the ocean’s apex predator (top of the food chain). The conclusion of their study, greenland sharks can live to be 400 year olds. That’s nearly 200 years more than the previous longest living veterbrate, the bowhead whale, which has been documented to live up to 211 years.
Little was known about the greenland shark until now, partly because of the predator’s illusive nature and tendency to stay in deep, cold water. Steven Campana, an expert on sharks from The University of Iceland commented, “Given that this shark is the apex predator in arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or 1000 years.”
The greenland shark has a greyish greenish tone and can grow to around 20 feet in length, the average male shark being around 13 feet, with females almost always larger. The sharks can weigh up to 2000 pounds and are basically blind due to parasitic bacteria in their eyes, they hunt using an impecable sense of smell.
The research team, led by Julius Nielsen caught 28 female greenland sharks between 2010 and 2013 and did scientific surverys to determine the age of the sharks. The oldest was 392. “I encountered the sharks here for the first time, and I was fascinated that so little was known about such large sharks,” detailed Nielsen.
The researchers used a technique called radiocarbon isotope dating to figure out the age of the fish. During the 1950’s a significant amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere by detonated bombs. The radiation and the trace elements that come along with it made their way into the diets of many animals, marine and terrestrial. The technique involves determining the levels, and type of carbon-14 in an animal, and gives an accurate idea of its age.
The radiocarbon dating is the first hard evidence to prove that the greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate in the world. The fact that the sharks only grow around a centimeter each year is also telling. The researchers also discovered that most greenland sharks don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re around 150 years old.

Advertisement