Woody: Old shark keeps on gumming

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Scientists have discovered a shark in Greenland they believe to be 390 years old, and Hollywood -- inspired by the success of "Jaws" -- is planning a movie about it.

It's called "Gums."

The movie opens with a comely young lass going for a midnight swim in a quiet lagoon, when suddenly from the murky depths emerges a huge shark -- Gums.

As the theme song to the Lawrence Welk Show throbs ominously, Gums swims up to the young lady, shakes its flipper, and yells, "Get offa my lawn you dang whippersnapper!"

I'm kidding. All the toothless old shark does is swim up and nibble the lass's toes.

Next morning the body of the swimmer is found on the beach. An autopsy reveals that she died from boredom after the 390-year-old grandma shark cornered her in the shallows and insisted on showing her photos of her grandchildren for five hours.

Other than the movie possibilities, I'm not sure what purpose is served by the discovery of a fish that's older than George Washington.

I suppose it could be inspiring to we humans, assuming we'd care to spend the next three centuries swimming around in the ocean eating purposes. Then again, that would beat sitting in a nursing home watching Oprah.

Speaking of eating, the old shark doesn't have to do much of it, according to Chris Harvey-Clark (rhymes with Harvey-Shark) of Canada's Dalhousie University.

"The biggest sharks probably don't have to eat every day," says Harvey-Clark. "They might just have a big meal once every year."

It would be just my luck to fall overboard on the one day, in the past year, that a passing shark had the munchies.

Another scientist, Julius Nielsen of Denmark's University of Copenhagen, says the Greenland shark is not a picky eater.

"It is not above gulping down carrion from dead reindeer and chunks of moose."

I guess if you haven't eaten a year, you'd be so hungry you could eat a moose.

It's not clear how a reindeer might find itself out in shark-infested waters -- did it decide to go for a midnight swim like the young lady in Jaws?

Santa: "Hey, anybody seen Rudolph?"

Donner: "Not since he went for a dip last night."

One thing the story didn't explain -- and which seems somewhat pertinent -- is how scientists arrived at the 390-year-old figure. All they said is that the Greenland shark shows the "hallmarks" of being that old.

They said she also has a slow metabolism.

Well, so does my aunt Mildred, but that doesn't mean she's 390 years old.

Nevertheless, scientists are convinced the shark's age is authentic, with or without a birth certificate, and they are excited over the discovery of a living creature that has been on the earth as long as Rembrandt, Shakespeare and Keith Richards.

Just imagine all that has transpired during the shark's lifetime: the founding of nations, the development of vaccines, the advent of space travel, keeping up with the Kardashians.

To put the shark's age into historical perspective: if George Washington had gone for a dip, the shark could have eaten him -- and come back later for Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln.

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Larry Woody
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