17 Shocking Things Sharks Are Older Than

Written by Lev Baker
Updated: September 11, 2023
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For more than 400 million years, sharks have been the apex predators in the world’s oceans. Yes, you read that correctly – sharks have a lineage that predates many significant milestones in Earth’s history. They have been around longer than trees, dinosaurs, and even some famous mountain ranges! Their longevity as a species truly defies belief. 

In this article, we are going to explore some of the most shocking things sharks are older than. So, strap in while we unveil the unbelievable longevity of sharks!

1. Trees – 370 Million Years Old

We were tucked away in some cottonwood trees at a small pond in Idaho.

Trees have been around for a LONG time, but not quite as long as sharks!

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©Lyle Dorman/Shutterstock.com

Across our vast planet, scientists estimate a mind-boggling count of around 3.04 trillion trees. To put this into perspective, it’s as if each individual in the world’s population had a mini-forest of approximately 400 trees. Trees are among the longest-living beings, with some species surpassing 5,000 years! That said, sharks have been swimming in our oceans much longer than trees have been swaying in the breeze on land. 

The birth of trees on Earth is believed to have occurred roughly 370-390 million years ago. That makes sharks at least 10 million years older than trees! 

2. Dinosaurs – 245 Million Years Old

Abelisaurus dinosaur

Dinosaurs are ancient creatures that no longer walk the earth.

©iStock.com/Elenarts108

Moving onto our second astonishing revelation: sharks swam the ancient oceans before the first roar of a dinosaur echoed across the land. What is shocking about this is that dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years while sharks are still thriving!

The dinosaurs were a group of reptiles under the classification Dinosauria that lived during a time on Earth known as the Triassic period. This debut was made somewhere around 245 million years ago. 

However, amidst the uncertainty of dinosaur origins, there stands a clear fact – sharks had been scouring the oceans much before. To be exact, sharks are almost 155 million years older than dinosaurs!

3. Flowering Plants – 130 Million Years Old

Silvery-violet Single Early tulip Candy Prince flowers in a garden in April 2014

Sharks have been around for more than twice as long as flowering plants.

©Sergey V Kalyakin/Shutterstock.com

It may be hard to remember a time before you could smell beautiful flowers, but this time did exist. And surprisingly, sharks had been navigating the deep-sea currents long before the first flower bloomed on Earth.

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, transformed the appearance of our planet soon after their emergence. This significant botanical evolution occurred around 130 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. Though this seems ancient in human terms, it’s but a fleeting moment when viewed on the broad canvas of geologic time.

In contrast, sharks appeared 400 million years ago, making them 270 million years older than flowering plants!

4. The Andes Mountain Range – 30 Million Years Old

Peruvian Andes Mountains

As grand as they are, the Andes Mountains are not nearly as old as sharks.

©BonnieBC/Shutterstock.com

The Andes Mountains, an awe-inspiring chain of lofty plateaus crowned by even higher peaks, stretch unbroken for about 5,500 miles. They extend from the southern extremity of South America, reaching to the continent’s northern shores. 

Notably, the Andes hold the distinction of being the tallest mountain range outside of Asia. Research suggests that the formation of the Andes began between 20 and 30 million years ago.

However, these majestic mountains are youngsters compared to sharks. Sharks have been gliding through Earth’s waters for 370 to 380 million years longer than the Andes have reached the sky. 

5. The Himalayas Mountain Range – 50 Million Years Old

Mount Everest

Another thing that sharks are older than is the Himalayas.

©Vixit/Shutterstock.com

The Himalayas Mountain Range is the highest mountain range on Earth. It boasts all ten of the world’s ten tallest peaks, including Mount Everest. Often referred to as the “Third Pole,” these monumental mountains source several of Asia’s significant rivers and play a critical role in shaping our planet’s climate.

Despite their massive impact, the Himalayas are relatively new in terms of Earth’s geologic timeline. The colossal collision between the Indian and Eurasian landmasses, spurred by tectonic plate movements, gave rise to this mountain range between 40 and 50 million years ago.

This means that sharks have been the residents of our oceans for an incredible 350 to 360 million years longer than the Himalayas!

6. The Grand Canyon – 6 Million Years Old

colorado river

The Grand Canyon was formed around 6 million years ago. Sharks began exploring the ocean many years before.

©Beth Ruggiero-York/Shutterstock.com

Recognized as one of the most exceptional examples of dry-land erosion globally, the Grand Canyon is a testament to the relentless power of the Colorado River. This vast canyon averages a depth of 4,000 feet along its entire 277-mile length and attracts nearly 5 million visitors each year.

Yet, despite its monumental size, the Grand Canyon is a relative newcomer to Earth’s geologic landscape. The forces of erosion and weathering have been at work, carving this magnificent spectacle for approximately 6 million years.

Sharks have been inhabiting our planet’s oceans for an astonishing 394 million years longer than the Grand Canyon. 

7. Birds – 150 Million Years Old

a bird in the flycatcher family of birds/Western Wood-Pewee

Birds have been flying in the skys for millions of years, but sharks have been around much longer.

©Laura Mountainspring/Shutterstock.com

Several hundred million years ago, the impressive Pterosaurs dominated the sky, often known as flying dinosaurs. These formidable beings boasted skin-stretched wings that spanned from an extremely elongated finger to their sides. 

However, about 150 million years ago, the air began to fill with a different kind of creature – one adorned with feathers, more streamlined, and designed for agile flight. 

Today, it’s estimated that the world is home to between 9,000 and 11,000 distinct bird species.

Nevertheless, compared to the ancient lineage of sharks, birds are relatively new inhabitants of our planet. Sharks have existed in our world’s waters for 250 million years longer than birds have graced our skies. 

8. Homo Sapiens – 300,000 Years Old

Illustration of the human arm anatomy representing nerves, bones and ligaments.

Humans have not been around as long as you might think.

©BigBlueStudio/Shutterstock.com

It may come as a surprise, but humans haven’t always been the center of the world. The existence of sharks predates humans by a massive margin. Homo sapiens, the species to which all modern human beings belong, only began to make their mark on Earth a relatively short 300,000 years ago. 

Although Homo sapiens is part of a larger group of species under the genus Homo, it stands alone as the only surviving member of its kind.

In contrast, sharks have been dwelling in our planet’s seas for an unfathomable 399.7 million years longer than Homo sapiens have walked the Earth. 

9. Amphibians – 368 Million Years Old

frog

Amphibians were the first animals to walk on land.

©Dave Denby Photography/Shutterstock.com

Fossil records suggest that amphibians, the pioneering land vertebrates, evolved approximately 368 million years ago, descending from an ancestor believed to be the lobe-finned lungfish. 

They marked a significant milestone in the evolution of life on Earth, and, despite some of them being significantly larger than the amphibians we see today, they flourished in their era.

Yet, even these early explorers of land were latecomers compared to the sharks. Sharks are around 32 million years older than these amphibians!

10. Reptiles – 315 Million Years Old

Alligator okefenokee swamp

Sharks are older than reptiles by around 85 million years.

©Leafyplant at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

The first traces of reptiles can be found in fossil records from about 315 million years ago. They held the reign during the Mesozoic era, a period spanning 270 million years. Today, there are approximately 10,000 recognized species of reptiles, each playing their unique roles in the world’s ecosystems.

But even these ancient creatures were late bloomers when compared to the timeless sharks. Sharks have been in existence for approximately 85 million years longer than the oldest known reptiles!

11. The Atlantic Ocean – 150 Million Years Old

sea wave in atlantic ocean during storm

Sharks are older than the world’s youngest ocean, the Atlantic.

©andrejs polivanovs/Shutterstock.com

The Atlantic Ocean is the youngest among the five oceans and came into existence approximately 150 million years ago. This formation was a result of the fracture of the colossal supercontinent, Pangaea. Today, the Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest ocean, covering a fifth of Earth’s surface and holding 29% of our planet’s water.

Sharks had been ruling Earth’s waters for a striking 250 million years before the Atlantic began to take shape. This thought-provoking fact emphasizes that sharks were once navigating a very different oceanic landscape, reinforcing their remarkable adaptability and survival skills.

12. Antarctica Ice Sheets – 35 Million Years Old

Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica.

The Antarctic ice sheet is thicker than 2 kilometers!

©Matt Makes Photos/Shutterstock.com

The ice sheets of Antarctica are a magnificent spectacle, covering about 98% of the Antarctic continent. They represent the Earth’s largest singular body of ice, with an average thickness exceeding 2 kilometers. According to scientific evidence, the icy makeover of Antarctica commenced approximately 35 million years ago, marking the birth of an icy world at the South Pole.

Surprisingly, sharks are even older than the ice sheet of Antarctica. These predators had been gracing the Earth’s oceans for an astonishing 365 million years before the onset of glaciation in Antarctica. 

13. Grass – 66 Million Years Old

Close up of a patch of well-mowed Buffalo Grass lawn. Detail shot of healthy and green grass. Background texture of grass surface.

Grass is younger than sharks!

©doublelee/Shutterstock.com

Though terrestrial plants have been giving our planet a green appearance for about 410 million years, the humble grass we often take for granted only debuted around 65 million years ago. Prior to the emergence of grass, this ecological role was filled by smaller vascular plants, which lacked the trademark blades or siliceous tissue commonly associated with grasses.

Can you imagine that sharks are even older than grass? Sharks are 335 million years older than the first blades of grass! 

14. The Alps – 65 Million Years Old

Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France

The Alps are another mountain range that is younger than sharks!

©iStock.com/Michael Kulmar

The magnificent Alps mountain range is the highest and most expansive mountain range in south-central Europe. It began its ascent towards the clouds around 65 million years ago, at the twilight of the Mesozoic Era. This majestic mountain system spans roughly 750 miles in a crescent formation, spanning eight Alpine countries in its sweep.

However, when it comes to age, even the Alps fell short in comparison to sharks. Sharks were the lords of the ocean depths for an incredible 335 million years before the first peaks of the Alps began to emerge. 

15. The Amazon Rainforest – 56 million Years Old

Path running through a grove of stilt rooted palms (Iriartea deltoidea) in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Stretching across most of northern South America, The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest.

©Dr Morley Read/Shutterstock.com

The Amazon Rainforest, recognized as the planet’s largest tropical rainforest, began its formation around 33.9 to 56 million years ago. This monumental transformation followed a global drop in tropical temperatures and the widening of the Atlantic Ocean, which together provided a warm and moist climate conducive to the flourishing of the Amazon basin.

However, in the grand scheme of Earth’s history, even the age of the mighty Amazon Rainforest seems somewhat youthful when compared to sharks. Sharks are 344 million years older than the largest rainforest in the world!

16. The Rocky Mountains – 80 Million Years Old

Loveland Pass is a high mountain pass in the western United States, at an elevation of 11,990 feet (3,655 m) above sea level in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado.

The Rocky Mountains may seem timeless, but they have only been around for 80 million years.

©Sandra Foyt/Shutterstock.com

The formation of the grand Rocky Mountains, a colossal range that spans from Canada to central New Mexico, was initiated approximately 80 million years ago and concluded around 35 million years ago. This era, known as the Laramide orogeny, was a time of intense plate tectonic action, which eventually sculpted the rugged landscape of western North America.

However, when we draw up a timeline of the Earth’s history, the impressive Rocky Mountains are but newcomers in comparison to sharks. Sharks were traversing the oceans for nearly 320 million years before the first peaks of the Rocky Mountains pierced the horizon. 

17. The Hawaiian Islands – 700,000 to 5.1 million Years Old

Road by the Diamond Head Mountain landmark and Honolulu suburbs, Oahu Hawaii

Hawaii is a relatively new member of Earth’s landmass.

©Structured Vision/Shutterstock.com

The Hawaiian Islands, an archipelago composed of eight primary volcanic islands, are relatively young in geological terms. The eldest of them, Kauai, surfaced from the Pacific Ocean about 5.1 million years ago. In contrast, the youngest, the Big Island, made its appearance a mere 0.7 million years back.

But as we journey back in time, it’s intriguing to note that sharks had already been existing for nearly 395 million years prior to the birth of Kauai, the oldest Hawaiian Island. 

Summary of the Shocking Things Sharks Are Older Than

ThingsHow Old is it?
Trees370 million years
Dinosaurs245 million years
Flowering Plants130 million years 
Andes Mountains30 million years
The Himalayas50 million years
The Grand Canyon6 million years
Birds150 million years
Homo Sapiens300,000 years
Amphibians368 million years
Reptiles315 million years
The Atlantic Ocean150 million years
Antarctica Ice Sheets35 million years
Grass66 million years
The Alps65 million years
The Amazon Rainforest56 million years
The Rocky Mountains80 million years
The Hawaiian Islands5.1 million years

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Elenarts/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

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