Scientists believe that they may have discovered the world's oldest living vertebrate in the form of an ancient Greenland shark. What makes Greenland sharks such mysterious creatures?
The Oldest Living Vertebrate In The World
A team of Danish scientists believes that among the Greenland sharks they discovered is the world's oldest living vertebrate. Before their discovery, the oldest known vertebrate was believed to be a 211-year-old bowhead whale, but the results of their findings show that the Earth's oldest vertebrate may just be older than the Declaration of Independence.
Researchers led by Danish marine biologist Julius Nielsen believe that among the 28 Greenland sharks they encountered is a pretty ancient shark. In their study published in the journal Science, the scientists state that by radiocarbon dating the eye lens of 28 Greenland sharks, they found that one of them is about 392 years old.
Now, radiocarbon dating is a process that yields results with a 95 percent of certainty, meaning that the actual age of the shark could be between 272 and 512 years old. It's worth noting that Greenland sharks grow merely 1 centimeter every year, which is why it was immediately clear to the scientists that the 18-foot female had lived for a few centuries.
Mysterious Greenland Sharks
Greenland sharks are quite mysterious for many reasons. For one thing, they spend most of their time in extremely deep waters of up to 2,400 feet under the ocean and in temperatures of -2 to 7 degrees Celsius of the northern Atlantic and Arctic ocean. This perhaps explains why interactions with them are quite rare. In fact, they are so hard to spot that despite their ancient ages, the first photographs of the species were only taken in 1995, whereas the first video of a living Greenland shark in its natural habitat was only taken in 2003.
Another interesting fact about Greenland sharks is that despite their massive size, their feeding behavior is described as similar to that of vultures, wherein they are believed to be scavengers that do not mind eating meat from other predators' meal remains.
The massive sharks are also called "sleeper sharks" because of their slow and sleepy demeanor, and although Inuit hunters do eat Greenland sharks, they have to do so with caution and careful preparation, as the meat of Greenland shark is poisonous. In fact, they have the most toxic meat of any shark in the world and can cause a drunken feeling if eaten because of the high concentrations of trimethylamine oxide in their meat.
With their massive size, long lives, and mysterious lives, clearly, Greenland sharks are incredible creatures.