A shark captured by a research vessel may have been born when James I was on the throne of England – and when William Shakespeare was still alive.
Scientists believe that Greenland sharks can live to up to 400 years old – and one specimen captured by a research vessel could be up to 512.
Previously, the oldest known vertebrate was the Bowhead whale, which can live to up to 211 years.
The specimen was caught in the North Atlantic and analysed by scientists, who believe that it could be up to 512 years old.
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Professor Kim Praebel said at the University of Exeter, ‘The longest living vertebrate species on the planet has formed several populations in the Atlantic Ocean.
’This is important to know, so we can develop appropriate conservation actions for this important species.’
Lead researcher Julius Nielsen of the University of Copenhagen said, ‘We only expected that the sharks might be very old.
‘But we did not know in advance. And it was, of course, a very big surprise to learn that it was actually the oldest vertebrate animal.’
The researchers write, ‘Our results show that the Greenland shark is the longest-lived vertebrate known, and they raise concerns about species conservation.’