Shark Facts Part VI: Greenland Shark

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Sighting Updates | No Comments
Greenland Shark

Greenland Shark

Yesterday, we told you about a stranded Greenland shark that was rescued by two men after biting off more than it could chew.

Although very little is known about Greenland sharks, today, we’re going to tell you what we do know about this fascinating animal!

The Greenland shark is conical in shape, with a thick body and blunted snout and round, small eyes.  Its colouration varies from brown, black, purplish grey to slate grey.  The Greenland shark likes it cold: it’s found in the cold, deep waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic. In fact, it lives further north than any other species of shark! In Canada, Greenland sharks can be found around Baffin Island, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Scotian Shelf and even the mouth of rivers near Saguenay River in Quebec. In the winter, these sharks can be found closer to the surface and at the edge of ice flows, but they move down to deeper, cooler waters in the summer.

Here are some fun facts:

  • Greenland sharks are very long-lived, some estimate they could live up to 200 years!
  • While reaching 3.5m to 5m (maximum just over 7m), these sharks are very slow growing, only about 1cm per year.
  • Diet: mainly fish (salmon, Arctic char, halibut, capelin, skates and other sharks), but will also feed on marine mammals (seals, small cetaceans). The Greenland shark is known to be a scavenger.
  • Threats to Greenland sharks include bycatch in fisheries, especially bottom trawl fisheries (e.g. halibut and other deep-waters species).
  • Due to the high urea content in its flesh, the Greenland sharks is poisonous. In fact, eating fresh Greenland shark has the same effect as severe drunkenness! However, by drying or fermenting the flesh, it is possible to consume Greenland shark, and this is considered a delicacy in Iceland and Greenland.

Researchers at the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG) have been conducting research on Greenland Sharks for over a decade. To find out  more about Greenland sharks and their research, please visit the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group.

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