Yesterday, I read an article about Greenland Sharks.
Apparently, Greenland Sharks can live a very, very long time. Hundreds of years, in fact. Researchers have discovered one shark that they estimate is 600 years old. They’ve found others that appear to be in the 200 and 300 year-old range.
There’s no definite conclusion as to why Greenland Sharks have such longevity. It’s likely that their habitat, cold and deep water, plays a factor. But there’s obviously more at play, something in their genetic makeup that influences their lifespan.
Just as humans have a natural expiration date genetically codified in our DNA, Greenland Sharks are pre-programmed to survive to a specific range of years. Real-world living and medical circumstances can affect the actual lifespan, of course; there’s no guarantee of reaching a certain age. Assuming good health and safety, however, most humans can expect a lifetime of between 70-90 years. And, it seems, most Greenland Sharks can expect a lifetime of centuries.
During the past 600 years, humans have formed countries, invented automobiles and airplanes and spaceships, discovered cures for illnesses, and learned how to preserve an image of a moment in time and then send it to millions of other people with a simple click of a button.
I’m haunted by the thought of sharks swimming unceasingly through the deep, dark, cold water while all of this happened on the land above them. I’m also a tiny bit jealous of these sharks. I don’t want to be a Greenland Shark, but it would be nice to have the potential to live as long as they do.
That’s not the way things work, however. So, instead of focusing on the question of why humans don’t also get 600 years, I’ll be grateful for the ones I’ve had. And, I’ll do my best to make the most of the years, however many they are, that are (hopefully) left ahead of me.