A living 512-year-old shark has just been caught by marine biologists
There's no getting around the fact that the ocean is a terrifying place. It's cold, it's dark, and - considering that around 95 per cent of it still remains undiscovered - it's full of creatures that we have no idea even exist.
Amongst the rumored Krackens and sea monsters, however, there are some familiar animals that we have come into contact with before. The likes of anglerfish, vampire squid, and giant spider crabs (look them up if you fancy some nightmare fuel at any point today) are all known to us surface-dwellers by now, but that doesn't mean they can't still hold some secrets we're unaware of.
The Greenland Shark, a species found in the sub-zero waters of the Arctic, is one such secretive creature - and it's managed to stay deep beneath the ocean for over half a millennia.
A group of scientists found the shark, which is said to weigh more than a tonne, along with 27 others. This particular one was bigger than any of the others, though, which is significant because the sharks only grow one centimeter per year.
Judging by its full 18-foot body length, the creature could possibly have been born in as early as 1505 - making it older than William Shakespeare, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the USA. Not only does this make the shark fascinating in terms of studying the longevity of ocean life, it's also useful for analyzing how the oceans have changed over this period.
Plus, since a lot of the sharks in this particular group have been around since before the industrial revolution and the dawn of large-scale commercial fishing, their history will be a much more reliable source of information than any other accounts we already have.
However, researchers have conceded that there is a possibility the giant fish is younger. At the very least, it could be 272 years old, but that still makes it the oldest living vertebrate species in existence.
Professor Kim Praebel, who led the hunt for the sharks, said that the animals were essentially "living time capsules" which could help us understand more about the history of our oceans. According to the professor, studying the sharks is "important", because it will allow researchers to "develop appropriate conservation actions for this important species.”
Despite its outstanding age, there have been other, more ancient sea creatures than the Greenland shark discovered in the past. Antarctic Sponges, for example, are known to have lifespans exceeding 1,000 years, and the Turritopsis Nutricula jellyfish are considered to be immortal.
Even though we've known about their existence for some time now, there is still a lot to be discovered about the Greenland shark. We're not even entirely sure how they hunt or what they eat, as the remains of horses and reindeer have been found in their stomachs before.
Hopefully, a study of the group most recently found will provide more answers about how the species have survived for so long, and a study of their DNA and bones will help to give a more accurate analysis of their ages.