A Greenland Shark has been found in the North Atlantic Ocean and is thought to have been born as early as 1502.
Scientists have used its size to suggest that the year of its birth is as early as 1505 – marking it as older than Shakespeare.
They have used the shark’s length – a whopping 18ft – and radiocarbon dating to figure out its age, which they believe to be between 272 and 512 years old.
It was the oldest of a group of 28 Greenland sharks analysed for the study.
The shark would have been alive during major world events such as: the founding of the United States, the Napoleonic wars and the sinking of the Titanic.
The shark mostly eats fish, but they have never been examined hunting. However, they have been known to have had remains of reindeer and horse in their stomachs.
The flesh of a Greenland Shark is considered a delicacy in Iceland – however, it is also toxic if it not treated.
A separate study of its bones and tissues by the Arctic University of Norway has also provided clues about the effects of climate change and pollution over a long time span.
The researchers have already mapped out all of the 16ft shark’s mitochondrial DNA – genetic material held in tiny battery-like bodies in cells that supply energy.
Now they are working on DNA from the cell nucleus, which contains the bulk of the animal’s genes.
‘Long life’ genes could provide scientists with the reason that the sharks have such a large lifespan – and this could also help with studies around the lifespan of humans.
Professor Kim Praebel, who led the hunt, said the sharks were “living time capsules.”
“The longest living vertebrate species on the planet has formed several populations in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Prof Praebel.
“This is important to know so that we can develop appropriate conservation actions for this important species.”