Great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, August 2006. Credit: Pterantula (Terry Goss)

A team of U.S. marine biologists has developed a new method to measure the age of great white sharks and the resulting findings came as a surprise.

As it was previously thought that great white sharks died of natural causes at an age of about 20 to 30 years, but after studying four dead sharks using this new method, it was evident that the oldest female was 40 years old at its death and the oldest male was actually 73 years.

The new method makes use of the atomic bomb testings during the Cold War, as these atmospheric tests resulted in significant amounts of radiocarbon that was released into the air and water. This carbon eventually found its way into the marine food chain, into sharks and can now be measured in the bones of dead sharks.

One of the researchers told the BBC News, “Everyone thinks they know these animals so well, and the public perception is that they’re either loved or hated. But in terms of the science, we’re only just now beginning to understand what they eat, where they go and how long they live”.

Vertebral Bomb Radiocarbon Suggests Extreme Longevity in White Sharks