Scientists were absolutely floored to find that a living shark in the North Atlantic, a Greenland shark, predates William Shakespeare.
A gigantic shark in the North Atlantic is an estimated 512 years old, which means it’s the oldest living vertebrate and also means that it was 49 years old when William Shakespeare was born. It is a Greenland shark, a species that mostly eats fish but has never been observed hunting.
Scientists used its size to determine that the shark may have been born in 1505. This shark was 18 feet long and weighed more than a ton, and this information helps scientists determine age because they grow at a rate of 1 cm per year.
A total of 28 Greenland sharks were analyzed, but this one was the oldest. It’s not unusual to find a Greenland shark that is several centuries old, as scientists know they have a life span of 400 years generally speaking.
“While the more than 5 meter long Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest sharks, it is also one of the least understood animals on our planet,” reads a 2016 University of Copenhagen statement on the shark. “The Greenland shark’s general biology and way of life have been a mystery to biologists for many years. However, marine biologists at the University of Copenhagen have now deployed an epoch-making method to unveil one of the greatest of the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic shark – and have come to an amazing revelation: with a life expectancy of at least 272 years, the Greenland shark has the longest life expectancy of all vertebrate animals known to science.”