- Researchers have found that a species of whale could have the longest lifespan among all vertebrates.
- The bowhead whale was initially believed to live up to 211 years.
- A new study discovered that bowheads can live much longer than originally expected.
There is little doubt that whales can live long, happy lives when they aren’t being hunted. However, one species of whale may have proven that it’s been around longer than the United States of America. The bowhead whale is believed to have a lifespan of up to 268 years. This means that these whales were already swimming around the ocean 25 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Bowhead whales live in the Arctic and are one of the most mysterious creatures of the ocean. Although scientist initially believed that the bowheads can live up to 211 years old, new research has revealed that they have an even longer lifespan. Interestingly, this means that some of the bowheads that are still alive today have been around since the Victorian era.
Australian researchers used a genetic ‘clock’ to predict the bowheads’ lifespan. They did so by studying 42 genes and employed a chemical process called methylation. This process can be used to predict the life expectancy of whales. Amazingly, the researchers found that bowheads could potentially live up to 50 years more than initially believed.
Dr Benjamin Mayne of Canberra’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation explained that their study also looked into the lifespan of other creatures. However, it was the bowhead whale that proved to have the longest possible lifespan.
“Vertebrates range hugely in lifespan, from a pygmy goby, a tropical fish which lives for only eight weeks, to a bowhead whale,” Dr Mayne said. ” It is incredible to think that there is an animal which lives for almost three centuries and could have been alive when Captain Cook first arrived in Australia.”
Scientists have long believed that bowhead whales have a long lifespan. In 2007, one whale was found with a 200-year-old harpoon still embedded in its body.