'Exceptional' revelation about rare shark after it washes up on shore

An incredible discovery has been made about a rare species of shark that washed up on a UK beach earlier this week.

A post-mortem examination revealed the dead juvenile Greenland shark could have been more than 100 years old, with some living for up to 500 years.

The nearly four-metre animal was first sighted on a Cornish beach in England's southwest, but it washed away before being recovered by experts, BBC reports.

The dead shark before it washed away.
The dead shark washed away before experts could get to it, but it appeared again two days later. Source: Twitter/Rosie Woodroffe

It was the second ever Greenland shark found in the UK, with the first seen in 2013.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, from the Institute of Zoology, first shared a photo of the shark on Twitter.

Days later, two fishermen spotted the "ginormous" creature in the water and managed to reel it in. The find left them "dumbfounded", they said.

Scientists make a remarkable discovery

The dead juvenile shark was a female with "possible signs of infection", Rob Deaville, from the Zoological Society of London's Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, revealed on Twitter.

Although he said "it was difficult to put an age on the shark", his team estimated it was at least 100 years old.

"There has been a lot of work in the past though showing this species is potentially the longest-lived vertebrate on the planet, one or two have been aged up to 400 or maybe 500 years old," he told the BBC.

"Now this animal certainly isn't that old but is it 100-plus years old? Quite possibly, but we need to get those samples sent off before we can get a better handle on that."

The scientists also found the shark's digestive tract to be "largely empty" indicating it "hadn't fed in some time."

The juvenile shark after it was reeled in by fishermen.
The juvenile shark is said to be at least 100 years old. Source: Twitter/Rob Deaville

Scientists excited to learn about 'weird and wonderful animal'

Mr Deaville said Greenland sharks are "weird and wonderful animals", and this recent discovery is an "exceptional opportunity to learn more about both the life and death of this deep-water shark".

As well as trying to determine its age, scientists hope to understand its diet, movements, and learn about any man-made pollutants that may be present.

"We hope to learn more about its life as well as its death," he Tweeted alongside a photo taken during the examination.

Although the size of dead Greenland shark was impressive, some can grow up to five metres in length.

They're usually found swimming in the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic, and are known to move at a slow and steady pace.

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