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Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

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Julius Nielsen, Rasmus B. Hedeholm, Jan Heinemeier, Peter G. Bushnell, Jørgen S. Christiansen, Jesper Olsen, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Richard W. Brill, Malene Simon, Kirstine F. Steffensen, John Fleng Steffensen

The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), an iconic species of the Arctic Seas, grows slowly and reaches >500 centimeters (cm) in total length, suggesting a life span well beyond those of other vertebrates. Radiocarbon dating of eye lens nuclei from 28 female Greenland sharks (81 to 502 cm in total length) revealed a life span of at least 272 years. Only the smallest sharks (220 cm or less) showed signs of the radiocarbon bomb pulse, a time marker of the early 1960s. The age ranges of prebomb sharks (reported as midpoint and extent of the 95.4% probability range) revealed the age at sexual maturity to be at least 156 ± 22 years, and the largest animal (502 cm) to be 392 ± 120 years old. Our results show that the Greenland shark is the longest-lived vertebrate known, and they raise concerns about species conservation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience (New York, N.Y.)
Volume353
Issue number6300
Pages (from-to)702-4
Number of pages3
ISSN0036-8075
DOIs
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2016

    Research areas

  • Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

ID: 164569396