Determining exactly how long sharks live is a challenging task. As migratory predators, sharks are difficult to monitor in the ocean over long periods.
Research shows that sharks tend to live much shorter lives in captivity compared to the wild, so it’s not very practical to make inferences about lifespan based on aquarium sharks.
However, new GPS tracking technology is providing valuable insights into sharks’ migration patterns and life habits, giving us more precise data.
Shark lifespan varies significantly by species. While most sharks live 20-30 years in the wild, some species live far longer than others. Here’s a look at the lifespans of some of the most common shark species:
Longest-Living Shark Species
- Spiny dogfish – This small shark can live over 100 years, making it one of the longest-living vertebrates on Earth.
- Whale shark – Believed to live over 100 years. Whale sharks seem to take a very long time to reach sexual maturity, meaning offspring also take a long time to be born. However, whale sharks rarely live more than a few years in captivity.
- Greenland shark – Estimated to live at least 250 years and possibly over 500 years. Greenland sharks have been carbon-dated to around 400 years old. Their longevity is likely due to their very slow metabolism and growth.
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Shark Lifespan Table
|Lifespan in the Wild
|Lifespan in Captivity
|< 8 years
|Great white shark
|30 years (up to 70+)
|27 years (up to 50)
|9 years (small tanks), up to 25 years (large aquariums)
|20-30 years (up to 44)
|Up to 25 years
|Up to 32 years
|Shortfin mako shark
In conclusion, shark lifespan varies greatly by species, but many live 20-30 years or more in the wild. Determining exact shark lifespans is challenging, but new research reveals some species can live over 100 years. Clearly, the longevity of sharks depends on them remaining in their natural ocean habitats.
As vital apex predators, ensuring sharks can live out their full lifespans is crucial for maintaining balance in ocean ecosystems. More research and conservation efforts focused on learning “how long sharks live” can help preserve these magnificent animals for generations to come.