Sharks are one of the oldest and misunderstood creatures on our planet; they haved lived alongside Dinosaurs and humans alike.
GPS technology allows us to now track sharks and give us an insight into their lives and how long they live.
It used to be difficult to track sharks in the ocean due to their range of movement and their eating habits.
The GPS allows the people studying sharks to see their migratory routes, life habits and offers more exact data.
A shark’s age can be determined by the number of growth rings that form on a shark’s vertebrae for a year.
The average life expectancy of shark’s will differ by the species with some living for much longer than others.
Shark’s who are kept in captivity will have a shorter life expectancy than another who lives in its natural habitat.
Whilst many consider shark’s to be the most feared marine creature, there are still many things we do not know about them.
So if you are curious as to how long sharks live, then read on as we discover most shark species’ average lifespan and the oldest shark ever recorded.
A shark’s lifespan will differ based on the species, a shark will generally live for 20 to 30 years when living in the wild but there are some sharks who can more than double or even triple this lifespan.
Whale Sharks for instance are believed to live for more than 100 years.
When Whale Sharks are kept in captivity they are known to have a drastic decrease in life expectancy, some will perish within days of being placed in captivity and the maximum life span is only around eight years.
Tiger sharks have a life expectancy of 27 years in the wild with some living upwards of 50 years.
Like many others Tiger sharks do not fare well in captivity living only 17 to 20 years.
Shark Life Cycle
Some shark species live longer than others and some will live as long or even longer than humans.
Within the average 20-30 year lifespan of a shark they will age through five stages of development:
A shark’s life begins with fertilization. Shark mating is a phenomenon we know little about.
What we do know is that a female’s egg is fertilized internally.
The claspers which resemble mammalian genitalia evolved from the male’s pelvic fin.
In the second stage of a shark’s life cycle the shark will carry their offspring in three ways.
The first is oviparity where the shark deposits eggs that are protected by a leathery egg casing.
The sharks emerge from the eggs and will live inside the mother until they are birthed alive and fully formed.
In some shark species the first born pup will cannibalize the rest of the egg that have yet to bear pups.
The gestation period for sharks is unknown however it is believed that it may take either a few months or more than two years.
A pup is the term for a newborn shark. Some sharks such as the Great White shark will only have one to two pups at a time, whereas other sharks can have up to 20 pups in a litter.
Approximately 400 shark species lay eggs, and the others live young in large numbers.
The pups are usually four to five feet long at birth and are completely self-sufficient.
When born they will swim away from their mother to begin searching for small water creatures to hunt.
Sharks will grow up but do take years to reach full adulthood.
They can take up to 15 years to fully mature, until they do reach adulthood most sharks remain near to their birthplace.
Many sharks will perish before they reach adulthood due to the slow growth leaving them susceptible to larger predators such as larger shark species.
The final stage of a shark’s life cycle is adulthood, once they reach this stage they start procreating.
Shark’s will devote the majority of their adult life foraging for food. Unlike humans, shark’s do not sleep.
Most will die after 20 to 30 years, the spiny dogfish and whale sharks can live for almost a century.
Whilst sharks have a general lifespan there are some that live much longer than the average and there are some who live less. Here we will go over some certain shark species:
Great White Shark
Great whites typically live for 40 to 70 years which was far longer than scientists originally believed.
It was only until 2014 that the idea of their lifespan being only 25-30 years.
The lifespan varies depending on the ocean the shark lives in for example the white sharks living in the North Atlantic can live up to 73 years.
The Bull Shark will only live for an average of 16 years. When in captivity they actually can live longer than in the wild.
The oldest bull shark recorded lived for 32 years.
The short life span can be due to the shark reaching adulthood much sooner than most species taking only 8 to 10 years.
These small slow growing sharks belong to the dogfish shark family and live between 25 to 100 years.
Their gestation period lasts from 18 to 24 months and is the longest of any animal on the planet.
The shark is endangered due to its late maturity and long reproductive time.
World’s Oldest Shark
The Greenland shark is the oldest shark known to man.
This shark has a minimum lifespan of 250 years but scientists believe it can live up to 500 years old.
The shark’s maturity is estimated to be 100 years.
Due to the sharks having such a long life even one mature shark being killed harms the species population massively.
The sharks can grow up to 24 feet long which is comparable to the length of a great white shark who have a much shorter lifespan.