Could "Jaws" have been a senior citizen? A new study finds that great white sharks live long lives and could be the longest-lived sharks on the planet.
Previously it was thought that great whites died of old age starting in their 20s or so. The new study, published in PLoS ONE, finds that their lifespan is more like that of humans, with great whites reaching 70 or more.
"Our results dramatically extend the maximum age and longevity of white sharks compared to earlier studies," said lead author Li Ling Hamady.
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"Understanding longevity of the species, growth rate, age at sexual maturity, and differences in growth between males and females are especially important for sustainable management and conservation efforts," said Hamady, a graduate student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In all fish, age is determined by analyzing increments in mineralized tissue, such as otoliths (ear bones), vertebrae and fin rays. These grow throughout a fish's life, adding annual rings, similar to growth rings in trees.