Researchers have found that great white sharks have a far longer lifespan than previously believed.
In this study, researchers from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) compared radiocarbon values from the shark vertebrae with reference chronologies documenting the marine uptake of carbon 14 produced by the atmospheric bomb testing.
Samples were dated at the National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility at WHOI. The result was the first radiocarbon age estimates for adult white sharks.
Estimated bomb radiocarbon dating age of the oldest female white shark sampled was 40, and for the oldest male 73. Ages for the three other males were 9, 14, and 44, while the other females sampled had estimated ages of 6, 21, and 32.
Co-author Lisa Natanson, a fisheries biologist in the Apex Predators Program at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), and colleagues suggest that either white sharks are living significantly longer and growing slower in the Northwest Atlantic than either the Pacific or Indian Oceans, or longevity has been underestimated in previous studies.
The study has been published in PLOS ONE.