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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • 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
  • Steffensen, John Fleng

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.)
Issue number6300
Pages (from-to)702-4
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2016

    Research areas

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

ID: 164569396