For centuries, scientists viewed most vertebrates as living more or less as long as humans — give or take 50 to 100 years. But recent research by a team that includes IU South Bend physiology Professor Peter Bushnell is changing that perception.
Based on radiocarbon dating, the team’s studies of 28 female Greenland sharks — published in the prestigious journal Science — found an average life span of about 272 years. The study’s oldest shark fell just shy of 400 years old — and some in their species may be older still.
According to the study, that makes the Greenland shark the earth’s longest-living vertabra. It means that the oldest Greenland sharks who are alive and swimming today were doing so back when astronomer Johannes Kepler was accused of witchcraft and nautical explorers still sought the Northwest Passage. Logarithms were new to mathematics. Britain had just begun to make inroads into India and it would be 160 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Additional studies by the team are measuring the shark’s migratory behavior, metabolic rate, skeletal and heart muscle properties and they way its blood oxygen levels are managed.
“There are a variety of different avenues we are pursuing in an effort to elucidate their fundamental biology,” Bushnell said.
Learn more about the study here.