The oldest great white shark ever recorded was a male shark that reached the ripe old age of 73 before his death. Unfortunately, that’s all we know about him, and it took us almost 30 years to find out! If you search for “The Oldest White Great White That Ever Lived,” you won’t find much information, and almost none of it will be about an unnamed shark that lived to 73 years of age. In fact, we have learned the true lifespan of these sharks only in the last 10 years, as strange as it may sound. Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is an amazing sea creature, but it is often misunderstood.
There are several reasons why we don’t know more about these amazing fish. To begin with, the portrayal of great white sharks as cannibals in Hollywood is almost completely false, but this opinion, unfortunately, is still widespread, so many people do not want to know more about these sharks. In truth, while they will attack humans on rare occasions, large whites prefer smaller prey such as porpoises, otters, seals, and sea turtles. A person is much more likely to be killed by a jellyfish, deer, or even a vending machine than a large white.
Unlike many other animals, it was difficult to closely study great white sharks while these sharks are still alive, because their diet and need for constant movement means that great white sharks do not usually survive for long in captivity. Some great whites held out for a little over a week before dying because they refused to eat in captivity. This inability to study them in captivity instead requires scientists to either study these sharks while they are at sea, study them for short periods of time on boats, or learn about them after the sharks have already died. It has not been until the past decade that researchers have begun using shark bones to determine their age using carbon. Most of what we know is based on one study.
Because of these research difficulties, it was initially believed that these amazing sharks only live for about 20 years. It was believed that women live shorter than men. However, recent carbon dating data show that great white sharks live much longer – as long as humans. There is currently insufficient data to determine if there is a difference in life expectancy between white men and women. Despite their longevity and their presence in all coastal waters around the world, their populations are considered vulnerable and conservation work is underway.
Finally, in 2014, shark scientists published an article stating that they had begun carbon dating a group of 28 great white shark carcasses. They did not name the oldest great white shark ever discovered, just the number WS105, but records show that this male shark, who died in 1986, was estimated to have a lifespan of around 73 years. The oldest female shark in the study group, WS81, died in 1983 and only lived for about 40 years.
The oldest known living great white shark is a woman named Nukumi, who is believed to be at least 50 years old. This makes her the second oldest white man on record. She weighs over 3,500 pounds and is 17 feet long. By comparison, the largest white shark ever recorded, Deep Blue, is estimated at 5,000 pounds and 20 feet in length, while the oldest Greenland shark is believed to be between 270 and 515 years old. Greenland lacks the calcification in bones that was used in dating large whites, but scientists eventually realized that they could use radiation in a shark’s eyes to determine their age. They have since begun recalibrating their carbon dating, and therefore the exact age of the Greenland shark is unknown.
Great white sharks are an ancient species dating back to the Miocene epoch of the Neogene period. We have only just begun to learn about their lifespan in the last decade. What will the next 10 years teach us about these sharks? Is the WS105 really the oldest age a great white shark can reach? Or is it possible that there are other great white sharks that, like their Greenlandic cousins, may have lived for hundreds of years?
Hopefully, if another older big white is finally found, it will at least be given a name, not a number.