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518 Years: Oldest Animal in the World, Greenland Shark Spotted in Rare Appearance in the Caribbean

Greenland Shark Oldest Animal Earth

A Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has been sighted in the warm, turquoise waters of the western Caribbean. This elusive creature, known for its icy Arctic habitat, has ventured thousands of miles from its usual home to explore the coral reefs off the coast of Belize.

A Tropical Vacation for an Arctic Giant

The Greenland shark, a slow-moving and slow-growing species, typically calls the frigid waters around Greenland and Iceland its home. Researchers were taken aback when they encountered this ancient ocean giant in the balmy Caribbean. It marks the first documented appearance of a Greenland shark in these tropical waters, nestled near the world’s second-longest barrier reef.

Devanshi Kasana, a Ph.D. student at Florida International University (FIU), stumbled upon the enigmatic visitor while working alongside Belizean fishermen. As they tagged tiger sharks, she noticed a shark attached to one of their lines that didn’t quite fit the tiger shark profile. A quick snapshot revealed the truth: it was either a Greenland shark or a hybrid between a Greenland shark and a Pacific sleeper shark.

The Ageless Wonder

Greenland sharks are the world’s longest-living vertebrates, defying the passage of time with remarkable resilience. According to a 2016 study, these ancient creatures can live for at least 400 years. Their slow growth rate—adding a mere centimeter per year—contributes to their longevity. Imagine a shark that has witnessed centuries of oceanic history, silently navigating the depths.

These colossal beings can reach up to 23 feet in length and weigh a staggering 1.5 tons. Their preferred habitat lies in the icy abyssal depths, making them elusive and challenging for scientists to study. Yet, this recent sighting hints at a tantalizing possibility: there may be more Greenland sharks lurking in tropical waters worldwide, hidden far below the surface where the water remains as cold as they prefer.

Omar Faux’s Surprise

Omar Faux, one of the Belizean fishermen involved in the project, expressed his astonishment: “I am always excited to set my deep-water line because I know there’s stuff down there that we haven’t seen yet in Belize, but I never thought I would be catching a Greenland shark.”

Indeed, the appearance of this ancient mariner serves as a reminder that our oceans still hold mysteries waiting to be unraveled. As we marvel at the Greenland shark’s rare Caribbean cameo, we’re left wondering what other secrets lie beneath the waves.

So next time you dip your toes into the warm Caribbean sea, remember that somewhere in its depths, a 518-year-old shark glides silently—a living relic from a distant past.

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