Rare Greenland Shark washed up in Cornwall could have been more than 100 years old

The Greenland Shark was a 3.96m long female juvenile which is usually found in very cold and deep waters Credit: Cornwall Marine Pathology Team

An extremely rare type of shark which was found dead in Cornish waters could have been more than 100 years old.

Marine experts believe the 3.96m long female juvenile shark became stranded off Newlyn Harbour beach while it was alive.

It was later recovered by crew members from Mermaid Pleasure Trips who brought it back to shore so experts could examine it.

  • Crew on finding 100-year-old shark in Cornish waters

The Greenland Shark is usually found in very cold and deep waters and the species has not been seen in British waters since 2013.

The Cornwall Marine Pathology Team carried out a post-mortem on the animal - the first to be carried out on this species in the UK.

Project Manager of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme at the Zoological Society of London Rob Deaville said that it is the oldest animal he has ever dealt with on his programme.

The shark was first spotted stranded off the coast of Penzance on 13 March Credit: Cornwall Marine Pathology Team

"It is certainly possible that it's been alive pre-First World War, but we just don't know," he told ITV News.

"We want to get the samples of the shark analysed before giving a clearer picture."

Greenland female sharks reach sexual maturity at 4.6m when they are around 150 years-old and this shark was 3.96, which means this shark was just shy of maturity and so is still classed as a juvenile.

The marine expert said this provides an "exceptional opportunity" to learn more about the life and death of the rare shark.

The rare breed has not been spotted in British waters for nine years Credit: Mermaid Pleasure Trips Penzance / Mick Dawton

"It's important to shed light on its life because these animals are so rare and so poorly understood", he said.

"As far as I'm aware there's only even been two to three strandings in the UK."

The shark's eye lenses and a section of vertebra have been sent off for analysis which will help experts understand why the shark was stranded and if it was due to an underlying disease which may have sent it off course.

It is hoped the samples collected from the shark will inform research on its life history, diet, contaminant exposure and population.