Prehistoric Greenland Sharks Can Live For Hundreds Of Years

Most people are afraid of sharks, and it’s not hard to see why. Their razor-sharp teeth; empty, black eyes; and ferocious appetites make them the perfect deep-sea villains. Movies like Jaws, which still scares the socks off audiences after more than four decades, certainly don’t help!

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, only 81 people across the entire planet have actually died from an unprovoked shark attack in 2016. And it’s highly unlikely that any of them would hold a vendetta like Steven Spielberg’s great white killer… so one would think they have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!

Scientists recently reported some news that ought to make you quiver in your flippers: a particularly hearty species, Greenland sharks, have been hanging around the Arctic for centuries—and they can live up to 400 years!

In August 2016, scientists declared the oldest-living vertebrates on the planet were the oh-so-terrifying Greenland shark. These deep-water dwellers thrive in the Arctic, and they can live upwards of 400 years.

Using data from a 1930s study, a University of Denmark marine biologist named John Steffenson learned that these sharks grow about one centimeter per year, suggesting that it takes decades for them to reach their full length of 20 feet. He spent several years collecting tissue samples from sharks who’d gotten tangled up in fishing nets to try and figure out how long they could live.

So when the oldest tissue sample was determined to be dated between 200 to a whopping 392 years old, John knew he was onto something. It turns out that these sharks also have a very slow metabolism—a common feature of creatures in cold climates—which might contribute to their longevity.

Learn more about this prehistoric shark—and what it likes to eat—below…

These sharks aren’t just old… they are really old. Thankfully, they seem pretty harmless, like gentle giants of the sea. Maybe it has something to do with all that wisdom they picked up over the centuries?

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