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  • Writer's pictureWill Hedrick

Greenland Shark | Animal Profile


Introduction

In August 2016, scientists gathered data from 28 female Greenland Sharks (Somniosus microcephalus). Their research determined a lifespan of at least 272 years old, with estimates reaching up to 512 years old. This made the Greenland shark the oldest living vertebrate. Read "Why a 400-Year-Old Shark and a 507-Year-Old Clam live so long" to learn more".

Behavior

Greenland Sharks are slow-moving, deep-water sharks that humans rarely see. Greenlands typically swim around 1 foot per second (they can move quickly for short bursts when chasing prey).

Diet

Greenland Sharks are predators that eat a variety of prey. Fishes and invertebrates are typically on the menu. However, dissected individuals have found remains of polar bears, raindeers, and other large mammals that likely fell through the ice.


Physical Characteristics

Greenland Sharks are large sharks - they can reach up to 23 feet long and weigh 2,300lbs. These Greenlands have rounded snouts with gray-brown coloring, plus small fins compared to their size.


The Greenland Shark is poisonous. Its skin is filled with enzymes to protect it from extreme cold and intense pressure from intense depth. Greenland sharks are also commonly blind due to a parasite that attaches to the cornea of the Greenland Shark's eyes.

Breeding

It can take up to 150 years for Greenland sharks to reach sexual maturity. Once they reach adulthood, they typically live birth to an average of 10 sharks at a time. These sharks are presumed to be independent from birth, similar to other shark species.


Location

Greenlands are found commonly in cold water environments like the Artic Ocean and North Atlantic, but occasionally stretch their range by visiting the eastern states of The United States.



Chris_huh, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where are Greenland Sharks found?

    1. Greenlands are found commonly in cold water environments like the Artic Ocean and North Atlantic, but occasionally stretch their range by visiting the eastern states of The United States.

  2. How long do Greenland Sharks live?

    1. Research determined a lifespan of at least 272 years old, with estimates reaching up to 512 years old. This made the Greenland shark the oldest living vertebrate.

  3. What do Greenland Sharks eat?

    1. Greenland Sharks are predators that eat a variety of prey. Fishes and invertebrates are typically on the menu. However, dissected individuals have found remains of polar bears, raindeers, and other large mammals.

  4. Are Greenland Sharks endangered?

    1. According to the IUCN, Greenland Sharks are listed as vulnerable with a population decreasing.

  5. What do Greenland Sharks look like?

    1. Greenland Sharks are large sharks - they can reach up to 23 feet long and weigh 2,300lbs. These Greenlands have rounded snouts with gray-brown coloring, plus small fins compared to their size.

  6. Are Greenland Sharks dangerous?

    1. Greenland sharks rarely ever come in contact with humans, which makes scientists consider them not to be dangerous.

  7. Are Greenland Sharks Blind?

    1. Greenland sharks are commonly blind due to a parasite that attaches to the cornea of the Greenland Shark's eyes.


Conserving Greenland Sharks

While we work to learn more about the Greenland Shark, we need to ensure plenty are alive in the wild. As we mentioned, the IUCN lists Greenland Sharks as Vulnerable - with a population decreasing in numbers. The threats to Greenland sharks are primarily from bycatch and fishing incidents, something our extraordinary partners at The Shark Trust know well.


The Shark Trust is a UK-based non-profit organization creating positive change for sharks. Shark Trust focuses on three conservation goals, species protection, fisheries management, and responsible trade. Outside of their conservation goals, they recognize shark conservation is driven by four agents of change, government, industry, scientists, and non-profits/NGOs.


They have engaged in numerous notable achievements including the landmark EU Finning Regulation (2013), regional action plans for critically endangered angel sharks and catch limits on Blue and Mako Sharks in North Atlantic fisheries. We are excited to be working with such an extraordinary organization that is blazing an impressive trail for shark conservation.


Donate and learn more about our Shark Conservation Project by clicking here.

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