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The Ancient of Days
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85251766_fea18b6004 Probably the most incredible science story of the week, Eye lens radiocarbon reveals centuries of longevity in the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus):

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.

Elisabeth Pennisi has a nice write-up, Greenland shark may live 400 years, smashing longevity record:

…Using this technique, the researchers concluded that two of their sharks—both less than 2.2 meters long—were born after the 1960s. One other small shark was born right around 1963.

The team used these well-dated sharks as starting points for a growth curve that could estimate the ages of the other sharks based on their sizes. To do this, they started with the fact that newborn Greenland sharks are 42 centimeters long. They also relied on a technique researchers have long used to calculate the ages of sediments—say in an archaeological dig—based on both their radiocarbon dates and how far below the surface they happen to be. In this case, researchers correlated radiocarbon dates with shark length to calculate the age of their sharks. The oldest was 392 plus or minus 120 years, they report today in Science. That makes Greenland sharks the longest lived vertebrates on record by a huge margin; the next oldest is the bowhead whale, at 211 years old. And given the size of most pregnant females—close to 4 meters—they are at least 150 years old before they have young, the group estimates.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Greenland Shark, Science 
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  1. They are too cool to get old.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4486781/

    Temperature is a basic and essential property of any physical system, including living systems. Even modest variations in temperature can have profound effects on organisms, and it has long been thought that as metabolism increases at higher temperatures so should rates of ageing. Here, we review the literature on how temperature affects longevity, ageing and life history traits. From poikilotherms to homeotherms, there is a clear trend for lower temperature being associated with longer lifespans both in wild populations and in laboratory conditions. Many life-extending manipulations in rodents, such as caloric restriction, also decrease core body temperature. [...] Lastly, we discuss species differences in longevity in mammals and how this relates to body temperature and argue that the low temperature of the long-lived naked mole-rat possibly contributes to its exceptional longevity.[...] the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is the longest-lived mammal (estimated maximum lifespan of 211 years), which has led to its genome being recently sequenced (Keane et al. 2015). Its average Tb has been estimated to be 33.8 °C (SD = 0.83, N = 28) which is lower than other non-hibernating eutherian mammals, and its metabolic resting rate also appears to be lower than that of other cetaceans (George 2009).

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  2. What will especially excite me is if they find out it’s highly resilient to cancer as well. That seems to be something in common with the long-lived Bowhead Whales and (relatively) long-lived naked mole rats – both are very resilient to cancer, and I’m wondering if there’s a common thing there with their longer longevity (as Sean pointed out above, it may also have a lot to do with their relatively low body temperatures and metabolic rates).

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