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Scientists discovered how to calculate the age of the world's largest fish

Whale sharks - the largest fish in the world with a key role in ecotourism - have their secrets. One of them is how long they live. Now scientists report that they have discovered how to calculate their age, thanks to Cold War-era atomic bomb tests, Reuters reported.
By measuring levels of carbon-14, a naturally occurring radioactive element that is also a byproduct of nuclear explosions, researchers have determined that distinctive stripes in shark cartilage vertebrae form annually, much like tree growth rings, BTA transmits.

Scientists are familiar with the existence of these rings and that their number increases as sharks age. Until now, however, it remained unclear whether they appeared annually or every six months.

For the purpose of the study, the specialists compared

the levels of carbon-14 in the cartilage rings with data on fluctuations in the global presence of the radioactive element during nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

"These elevated levels of carbon-14 first saturate the atmosphere, then the oceans and through the food chain fall into the animals, generating their accumulation in structures like the cartilaginous vertebrae of whale sharks,” explains Joyce Ong, study leader from Rutgers University in New Jersey in publication in the magazine. Frontiers in Marine Science.

Scientists now have a means to calculate the age of whale sharks - a key indicator of the conservation of endangered giants, considering that one ring equates to one year.

Specialists have tested carbon-14 levels in dead specimens whose remains are stored in laboratories. The oldest specimen studied lived for 50 years, with specialists admitting that the life expectancy of whale sharks could reach up to 100 years.


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