Are Sharks Older Than Trees?

Are sharks older than trees? It’s a thought-provoking question that may have never crossed your mind before. Sharks, with their powerful presence and ancient lineage, have inhabited the Earth’s oceans for millions of years.

On the other hand, trees, with their towering majesty and vital ecological role, seem to be an age-old fixture on land. But which of these fascinating organisms truly holds the title of being older?

In this article, we will delve into the depths of time to uncover the surprising truth behind this intriguing query: are sharks really older than trees?

Prepare to be captivated by the mysteries of evolution and explore how these two extraordinary life forms have shaped our planet over countless millennia.

Are Sharks Older Than Trees

How Long Have Sharks Been Around?

Amazingly, sharks have existed for 420 million years. They originally appeared in the Late Silurian period, and throughout the succeeding Devonian and Carboniferous ages, they continued to change and diversify.

which lasted roughly between 358 and 299 million years ago. Throughout the Mesozoic Era, which lasted from roughly 66 to 252 million years ago, sharks continued to flourish and achieved their highest level of diversity.

Sharks have a long history and have proven to be remarkably resilient, surviving three mass extinction events that had a significant impact on the evolution of life on Earth. The Megalodon is a well-known type of prehistoric shark.

It existed between 2.3 and 2.6 million years ago, during the Cretaceous epoch. One of the biggest and most powerful predators to ever cruise the oceans, this enormous creature eventually went extinct.

Sharks have kept their basic body plan, which has been very effective, despite changes in the Earth’s environment and the appearance of new species.

Sharks are among the oldest and most persistent species in the history of life on Earth because of their adaptability and endurance.

Are Sharks Older Than Trees?

Sharks have existed for hundreds of millions of years, and they first showed up in the fossil record before trees were widely distributed on Earth.

The following justifies why sharks are older than trees:

Fossil Record

The fossil record offers conclusive proof that sharks first appeared on Earth before trees did. Around 420 million years ago, during the early Devonian era, the first shark fossils were discovered.

The first plants that resembled trees, known as Archaeopteris, however, emerged later during the same time period, some 385 million years ago.

Evolutionary History 

Sharks are members of the ancient Chondrichthyes group of creatures, which has a long evolutionary history.

One of the oldest extant lineages of vertebrates, their ancestors can be found in much earlier times. As sophisticated terrestrial plants, trees developed later in the evolutionary process.

Dominance in Ancient Ecosystems

Sharks were already well-established and thriving in marine ecosystems a long time before trees took control of the land.

Sharks played important roles in the food chain when marine life was more diverse and sophisticated throughout the early Paleozoic epoch.

Adaptation to Ancient Environments

Sharks were highly adapted to their surroundings from an early age thanks to their evolutionary adaptations, which allowed them to survive in a variety of marine habitats.

In contrast, trees experienced substantial changes to live and procreate successfully in terrestrial ecosystems.

Impact on Ecosystems

For millions of years, sharks have shaped marine ecosystems in a significant way. They have influenced the distribution and abundance of other marine species as apex predators, helping to control the marine food webs.

Even though trees are crucial for terrestrial ecosystems, their effects did not become apparent until much later in Earth’s history.

Geological Time Scale

Sharks have survived over several geological eras, whereas trees only appeared once or twice in Earth’s history.

They have been on Earth for a very long time, which confirms that they are older than trees.

Geological Context

The early Paleozoic period, when sharks first evolved, was marked by major changes in marine life.

A critical turning point in the colonization of land by plants was marked by the appearance of trees in the later Devonian period.

What Is The Oldest Shark Still Alive on Earth? 

Shark species that have existed for millions of years and have developed to withstand the test of time include the oldest extant sharks on Earth.

Sharks are incredibly old organisms that have endured numerous mass extinctions and have mostly maintained the same fundamental body structure for hundreds of millions of years.

Let us look at a few of the oldest shark species still living today.

Greenland Shark

The Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans are home to the Greenland shark, one of the planet’s longest-living vertebrates.

These sharks grow slowly and have an incredible lifespan of more than 400 years.

Similar to the growth rings found in tree trunks, scientists examine the growth rings in their eye lenses to establish their age.

Frilled Shark

Due to its archaic appearance, the frilled shark is frequently referred to as a “living fossil”. This deep-sea resident’s ancestry dates back around 80 million years, and it has undergone very little modification.

The frilled shark, which can be found in deep waters all around the world, is still an enigmatic and uncommon species.

Sixgill Shark

Another animal with a lengthy evolutionary history is the sixgill shark. It may have been around for more than 250 million years, according to fossil evidence.

These sharks are distinct from their ancestors in that they have six gill slits instead of the more typical five found in other sharks.

They are very adaptable predators that can be found in a variety of maritime locations and depths.


The coelacanth is an extinct fish that should be mentioned rather than a shark. This extinct fish species, which has been around for more than 360 million years, was rediscovered in the 20th century after being considered to be extinct.

Coelacanths currently come in two species, one off the coast of Africa and the other close to Indonesia.

How did sharks survive five mass extinction events?

Sharks’ amazing adaptability and evolutionary tactics have allowed them to escape five global extinction catastrophes.

These prehistoric animals have developed a few essential characteristics that have enabled them to survive and flourish in the face of substantial environmental changes:

Diverse Diet

As opportunistic predators, sharks have a diverse range of food choices. When the environment was unstable, they were able to modify their feeding habits to the available food sources, which helped them survive.

Wide Distribution

Sharks are widely distributed and can be found in both shallow coastal waters and deep ocean regions. In the event of isolated disasters, their widespread dispersal lessens the probability of total extinction.

Reproductive Techniques

Compared to other fish species, many shark species mature slowly and have few offspring. They may devote more energy to each person thanks to this tactic, which raises the likelihood that their progeny will survive.


Some sharks live longer than average, which may enable them to withstand unstable settings and endure protracted periods of hardship.

Benthic Lifestyles

Some shark species lead benthic lifestyles, which refer to their predominant habitat as the ocean floor.

This way of existence may protect them from the worst consequences of extinction events that take place in surface waters.

Effective Predators

Sharks are apex predators that keep marine ecosystems in balance. They can adjust to variations in the availability of prey thanks to their predatory nature.

Generalist Anatomy

Over millions of years, the body plan of sharks has mostly not changed. They are able to successfully adapt to various ecological niches thanks to their generalist morphology.


Have any prehistoric sharks interacted with ancient tree ecosystems?

Although there is little evidence of direct interactions, ancient trees coexisted with prehistoric sharks like Helicoprion and Megalodon. These sharks were crucial to the health of marine ecosystems because they controlled prey numbers and preserved ecological harmony.

How have trees and sharks evolved over time?

Sharks and trees have evolved along quite different pathways. Trees are terrestrial plants that have diversified into a wide range of species, from imposing sequoias to tiny blooming plants, as a result of environmental adaptation. In contrast, sharks are aquatic animals that have developed to survive in ocean ecosystems by adapting to a range of niches, leading to the creation of about 500 different species.

Why are sharks often considered living fossils?

Sharks are commonly referred to as “living fossils” since their evolutionary history can be traced back over millions of years and they bear a striking similarity to their prehistoric ancestors. Early sharks had a basic body layout and characteristics that have persisted over time, demonstrating their successful ecological adaptability.

How lifespans affected the evolution of sharks and trees?

Sharks’ shorter lifespans allowed for swift adjustments in dynamic marine ecosystems, which helped to increase their diversification. In contrast, trees’ longer lifespans allowed for gradual adaptation to changing circumstances.

Why do sharks have such a high success rate for survival?

Sharks’ status as apex predators has been aided by their adaptability, tenacity, and successful hunting techniques. They are among the most resilient and fascinating species in Earth’s history due to their capacity to adapt to different aquatic conditions and thrive there.

In conclusion, while sharks and trees both have ancient origins, it is clear that sharks are older than trees. Fossil evidence shows that sharks appeared on Earth approximately 450 million years ago, while the earliest known tree fossils date back around 370 million years.

Sharks have survived multiple mass extinctions and have adapted to changing environments over millions of years, making them one of the most resilient creatures on our planet.

By understanding the long history of sharks, we can gain a deeper appreciation for their importance in maintaining balance in marine ecosystems. Let us continue to study and protect these incredible animals for future generations to marvel at their age-old existence.