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Long Live the Greenland Shark!

Roughly 400 years ago the Jamestown Colony was fighting to survive, Peter the Great reigned as Czar of Russia, Shakespeare published Hamlet and somewhere among these events a Greenland shark was being born. Remarkably it is entirely possible that that shark is still alive.

Some may say, “What is a Greenland shark?” Admittedly, up to now I’ve never heard of it. Apparently, the Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest carnivores. It is grey, plump, and can grow up to 24 feet in to length and weigh up to 3100 pounds. It’s primarily considered a scavenger eating mostly fish. However, strange things have been found in its stomach: remains of polar bears, horses, and moose and in one case an entire reindeer. To humans, the meat is toxic; however, processes have been developed that enables its consumption. Of course leave it to us humans.

With a reported growth rate of less than one half inch a year, they were already thought to be long-lived creatures, but just how long they lived for was something of a mystery, well until now.

Recently through the process of carbon dating scientists have discovered that of all the sharks tested, the oldest was 392 plus or minus 120 years. Given that life expectancy, female sharks don’t reach maturity until 150 years old!

Considering this newly discovered information, it is mind boggling to understand how much we don’t really know about these mysterious creatures and it could be yet another argument for protection laws. According the IUCN Red List Threatened Species, the Greenland shark tops the list. It is important now more than ever to protect the Greenland shark so that scientists can continue to address the many unanswered questions about these sharks and the vital role they play in our underwater ecosystem.

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