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Radioactive isotopes revealed the life of whale sharks
- April 10, 2020
- Posted by: Wiley M. Wagner
- Category: Science
One of the most important factors in the study of a biological ecosystem is the ability to correctly and accurately calculate how long one or another of its representatives can live. The exact same question was recently posed to a team of oceanologists from the Australian Institute for Ocean Research, who decided to make a more accurate and correct forecast for the longevity of whale sharks, which are one of the largest representatives of their species. It turned out that the lifespan of such creatures is slightly different from what was previously considered to be – but more surprising is the method by which these data were established.
The fact is that in order to establish an accurate indicator of the maximum and average life expectancy of whale sharks that live in the oceans, oceanologists used radioactive isotopes and their residual substances, which remained in a fairly noticeable volume in some parts of the ocean, where in the middle of the last century nuclear tests.
In particular, we are talking about a specific isotope called carbon-14, which is largely present in most nuclear charges of the last century – and given that its volume in the Earth’s atmosphere and in the bowels of the ocean obeys a mathematically verified deviation, experts were able to relatively easily draw a parallel between its effect on the body of whale sharks and their life expectancy. Thus, preliminary research data showed that the previous theory about the maximum life span of whale sharks of 100 years is not entirely true – scientists put forward the thesis that the real maximum life is no more than 70 years.
Such data were obtained by a careful study of two whale sharks, in the body of which a fairly large amount of carbon-14 was noticed – both specimens, as shown by studies of their vertebral processes (playing the same age role as rings in trees), were no more than than 50 years, which is a rather serious difference from previous theories and assumptions about the maximum life span of these shark species.