This Shark May Be Longest-Living Vertebrate on Earth

Scientists say the Greenland shark may live up to 500 years
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2016 6:59 PM CDT
Meet the Shark That May Live for 500 Years
The Greenland shark may be the world's longest-living vertebrate, with an estimated lifespan of around 400 years.   (Julius Nielsen via AP)

Move over adorable centenarians featured on Good Morning America, scientists say there's a shark out there that may be able to live to be 500 years old. Researchers studying the Greenland shark estimate the oldest of their 28 specimens is 392 years old, give or take 120 years, Science reports. They tell NPR they're 95% sure Greenland sharks live between 272 and 512 years. That would make the sharks the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, according to Time. The bowhead whale was the previous record holder, living up to 211 years, so even 272 years is a massively long lifespan. The shocked researchers published their findings Thursday.

Researchers deduced the shark's age by carbon dating its eyes. National Geographic reports the Greenland shark hadn't been heavily studied in the past due to living in the remote North Atlantic and being hard to find. A geneticist believes the cold water in the sharks' home is responsible for their long lives, slowing their metabolic rates and turning on an anti-aging gene. Meanwhile a biologist specializing in aging is suddenly interested in studying the Greenland shark. "There's something going on in those muscles," he tells NPR. "If we discover what it is, we might be able to adapt it to human use." (This might be the first shark caught napping.)

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