Sharks Live Longer Than We Thought

73-year-old great white identified

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 9, 2014 4:13 AM CST

(Newser) – Great white sharks that manage to stay out of the soup pot can live to much greater ages than earlier realized, according to new research. Using tests that measure radiation from atmospheric nuclear tests, scientists identified a male great white that lived to be around 73 years old and a female that survived to around 40, reports Phys.org. Earlier research suggested the sharks only made it as far as their early 20s, but scientists now believe the huge predators are among the longest-lived cartilaginous fish.

Great whites are considered a vulnerable species and the research has important implications for conservation programs, as it suggests the sharks are slower-growing and later to mature than earlier believed. Great white shark conservation should be put on a par with the "conservation we have—and take for granted—for marine mammals, which also have low fecundity, long lifespans, and late maturity," a spokesman for the Shark Trust charity tells the BBC. "The conservation of sharks is not like the conservation of trout in a river, and that's something people in the fisheries business don't always understand."

A great white shark near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.
A great white shark near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.   (AP Photo/Discovery Channel, Andrew Brandy Casagrande)
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