Sharks are ancient creatures—they’ve been around since before the dinosaurs. But not only are sharks an old lineage of animals, but some sharks are actually the longest-lived vertebrate animals on the planet.

Greenland sharks are some of the biggest in the world—they’re about the same size as great white sharks. They live in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans in very cold water, and they eat fish. They’ve even been found with the remains of land animals like polar bears and reindeer in their stomachs; their bodies must have washed into the water.

They swim very slowly, and scientists have learned that they grow very slowly too. Scientists who caught the same shark in 1936 and then again in 1952 were able to see how much it had grown in between; a recent study has looked at evidence for the sharks’ ages in the lenses of their eyes. These studies have shown that Greenland sharks can live for three hundred or more years—far longer than tortoises, parrots, or any other animal with a backbone!

Photo by Hemming1952

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