Scientists have revealed the gigantic Greenland shark is officially the world’s oldest animal in the world.

The shark, which lives in the icy Arctic waters, has an average lifespan of 272 years old and could live up to a staggering 400 years old.

Research published in the journal of Science this week revealed that the Greenland shark, or Somniosus microcephalus’s lifespan is more than 60 years longer than that of the the bowhead whale, the previous contender for longest-living vertebrate.

Greenland Sleeper Shark, Somniosus microcephalus, swimming over plumose or frilled anemones, Metridium senile and Northern Red Anemone, Tealia felina or Urticina felina. St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada.

This sturdy shark survives in -1C to 10C waters and can swim as deep as 7,200ft. Not to mention, they can weight up to a tonne. So, it is safe to say that they do their fair share of growing during their 400 years on the planet.

In the past scientists have been baffled by how old these sharks can live however, the study’s lead author, Julius Nielsen, revealed that now it is officially considered the oldest animal in the world.

When 28 female sharks were accidentally caught in a commercial fishing trip Nielsen and his team jumped at the chance to research these mysterious creatures.

Unlike the conventional methods used to determine the age of ordinary fish, these do not apply to Greenlands, which makes it harder to know with certainty just how old they are.

Greenland shark under ice, Somniosus microcephalus, Canada, Arctic, Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, northern Baffin Island

However, this exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with them allowed the team to work out a test whereby they would have a better idea of their lifespan.

Hence, why the Greenland shark has only just been crowned the oldest animal on the planet.

Up until now the bowhead whale was the king of the world. It too lives in the Arctic and can grow up to 59 ft long.


Bowhead whales are known to live for over 200 years however, in comparison to the Greenland shark – they are just a baby.

The fact that both of these animals survive in the same area of the world and have such a long lifespan – as well as being as far from extinction as scientifically possible (aka they are thriving) – these species clearly know the secret to a long and healthy life.

Maybe we should all be taking a leaf out of these gentle giants book when it comes to our lifestyle tips.