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He had spent the summer in Greenland, working on research vessels for the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, and it occurred to him that the trawlers’ unwanted bycatch was a biological goldmine.
Not long after the study was published, Heinemeier received a request from police in Germany. In the city of Wenden, near Cologne, a teen-ager had opened his family’s freezer in search of a snack and discovered the bodies of three infant girls, wrapped in plastic.
Still, it firmly established Greenland sharks as the longest-living vertebrates on Earth.
In theory, the biggest ones could be nearly six centuries old. Increasingly, scientists are searching the natural world for the genetic and behavioral mechanisms that endow creatures with their special abilities—that make elephants virtually immune to cancer, say, or axolotls capable of regenerating a lost limb.
Heinemeier told him about his recent breakthrough in the murder case and suggested that Steffensen return to Greenland and bring back some lenses. Though sharks do possess crystallines in their eyes, acquiring enough samples for a rigorous study was an expensive and logistically tricky proposition; at first, Steffensen managed to get just two.
Hearing this at one of Steffensen’s lectures, Nielsen, a young biology student, proposed a solution.
The investigators suspected the boy’s mother of having killed the children, but she denied it.