Legendary Great White Shark Was Just A Teenager When Killed, New Research Reveals

New research has shown that a massive, legendary great white shark caught off Prince Edward Island, one of the largest ever recorded, was just a teenager at the time of its death, proving that the animal had much more room to grow had it lived to mature.

The shark in question was a female great white, caught in 1983. As CBC News reports, the shark was an astonishing 5.3-meters-long, a massive size that led to the predator’s recent ranking at number two among the Discovery Channel’s top five legendary sharks. Surprisingly, however, new research into the life cycle of great whites has revealed that the Prince Edward shark was far from fully grown when it died.

A recent study examined the levels of a radioactive isotope, carbon-14, found in the bodies of sharks caught between 1963 and 2010 in order to determine their age. As LiveScience points out, nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in fallout that was absorbed by marine life forms. Carbon-14 spikes in the tissue of a great white can now be definitively linked to certain years, allowing researchers to positively identify the actual age of an individual shark. Researchers determined that white sharks are late bloomers, with male specimens taking around 26 years to reach sexual maturity, while females can take 33 years. The data also indicated that white sharks can live to be 70-years-old, longer than previously estimated.

In the course of their research, scientists examined the Prince Edward Island shark’s bones, which were luckily preserved, as the Inquisitr previously reported. Though astonishingly large, the specimen was just 20-years-old when it was killed. According to Steven Campana, who heads the Canadian Shark Research Lab at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia, the legendary shark would have grown far larger if it had lived.

“It’s a teenager in shark years. If it would have lived longer it would have gotten a lot bigger. It was a female at 5.3 meters long. It was a big shark. But it still had a lot of growing to do.”

Last year’s highly controversial Shark Week, which aired on Discovery and featured several prominent mockumentaries focused on giant sharks, stirred much debate and speculation over just how large a mature white shark can grow. The newly determined age of the Prince Edward Island shark, along with the recent findings regarding the species’ life cycle, seems to support the possibility that great whites larger than any previously recorded, may yet be prowling the oceans.

[Image: Canadian Shark Research Laboratory via CBC News]