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Study ranks Greenland shark as longest-lived vertebrate

New radiocarbon dating of eye lenses suggests life span up to 392 years

2:00pm, August 11, 2016
Greenland shark

LONG LIVE SHARKS  A Greenland shark (near the surface after being released from a boat) might outdo all other vertebrates in longevity, a new study says. 

The latest in birthday science proposes that the vertebrate with the longest life span yet measured is the mysterious Greenland shark.

Dating based on forms of carbon found in sharks’ eye lenses suggests that a large female Somniosus microcephalus was about 392 years old (give or take 120 years) when she died, says marine biologist Julius Nielsen of University of Copenhagen. Even with that uncertainty, the shark outdoes what Nielsen considers the previous record holder: a bowhead whale estimated to have lived 211 years.

The dating comes from the first use of eye-lens dating for a fish, Nielsen says. An analysis that produced the date, involving 27 other Greenland shark specimens, suggests that females don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 156 years old, Nielsen and his colleagues report August 12 in Science. Remarkably little basic biology is

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