Greenland sharks may live 400 years, researchers say

2016-08-11 22:17
An undated photo made available by Julius Nielsen on August 11, 2016 shows a Greenland shark on the research vessel Pâmiut. (Julius Nielsen via AP)

An undated photo made available by Julius Nielsen on August 11, 2016 shows a Greenland shark on the research vessel Pâmiut. (Julius Nielsen via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Miami - Greenland sharks are the Earth's longest-lived vertebrates - or creatures with a spine - with a lifespan that can last as long as 400 years, international researchers said Thursday.

Their slow growth rate - about one centimetre per year - contributes to their exceptionally long lives, beating out other well-known centenarians of the animal world such as the bowhead whale and the Galapagos tortoise.

In fact, only one species of clam is known to live longer, said the study in the journal Science, adding, "The life expectancy of the Greenland shark is exceeded only by that of the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica, 507 years)."

Known formally as Somniosus microcephalus, the Greenland sharks are the largest fish native to Arctic waters.

They also take a very long time to reach sexual maturity - about 150 years, said the report.

The study relied on radiocarbon dating techniques, applied to the eye lenses of 28 females caught unintentionally by fishermen seeking other species.

Researchers can learn about the age of marine creatures by finding traces of atomic radiation in their tissues, resulting from atmospheric tests of thermonuclear weapons since the mid-1950s.

They found that the two largest sharks in this study, at 493cm and 502cm in length, "were estimated to be roughly 335 and 392 years old, respectively".

The Greenland sharks' average lifespan is believed to be about 272 years, said the study led by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

Co-authors came from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, the National Aquarium Denmark, the Arctic University of Norway, Indiana University-South Bend, the University of Oxford, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Read more on:    us  |  greenland  |  marine life

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.