Carbon dating used forensics
The isotope has always occurred naturally on Earth, formed wherever incoming cosmic rays strike the atmosphere, but some of the current supply also comes from nuclear-weapons tests.
The level fluctuates from year to year, and that means that every given time period has its own carbon-14 signature.
With the help of a mathematical model that linked size with age, they estimated that one sixteen-foot female was at least two hundred and seventy-two years old, and possibly as much as five hundred and twelve years old.
Because it is difficult to establish background carbon-14 levels in the ocean, and because Nielsen and his colleagues didn’t know which part of the ocean the sharks had been born in, the figure was inexact.
The investigators suspected the boy’s mother of having killed the children, but she denied it.
While the victims’ ages were obvious—all were clearly newborns—the police had no way of knowing when the murders had taken place.
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There may be Greenland sharks alive today that were born before Christopher Columbus; the species is not even thought to reach sexual maturity until around a hundred and fifty years of age. The answer likely has to do with a very slow metabolism and the cold waters that they inhabit.
But for now, Nielsen said, it’s yet another mystery.
(There was a particularly huge spike, called the bomb pulse, in the nuke-happy heyday of the fifties and sixties.) Experimenting on cadavers’ lenses, Heinemeier found that he could measure how much carbon-14 they contained and use it to determine the deceased’s date of birth.
Heinemeier’s paper made no mention of Greenland sharks.