Greenland Sharks

The Greenland shark is perhaps the most peculiar species of shark, found in the icy Arctic waters often at depths of 2,000 metres, down in the midnight zone of the ocean.

Common Name
Scientific Name
Diet
Size
Depth
Ecosystem/Habitat
Zone
Greenland Shark
Somniosus microcephalus
Greenland sharks eat any meat they find, from seals to whale carrion.
24 feet (7.3 m)
7,200 feet (2,200 m)
Arctic waters at temperatures between -2 and 7 degrees Celsius.
Bathypelagic Zone

Greenland Sharks

The Greenland shark is perhaps the most peculiar species of shark, found in the icy Arctic waters often at depths of 2,000 metres, down in the midnight zone of the ocean. Living at such depths has led to Greenland sharks experiencing something known as ‘deep sea gigantism’, which is the tendency for deep-sea dwelling species to be larger than their shallower-water relatives.

With some growing to 6 metres long, and weighing 2,000 pounds, they are certainly among the largest shark species in the world. But despite their size, there are no cases of attacks on humans. They are primarily scavengers. Their close relatives, Pacific Sleeper Sharks, have strangely enough have been known to eat another ocean leviathan. Beaks of the mighty colossal squid have been found in their stomachs; invertebrates even more elusive than this deep-sea shark.

The Greenland shark is truly a living fossil, with some individuals thought to be 400 years old, and possibly more. The transparent tissue of their eye lens is metabolically inactive, and new layers are added as the sharks grows older, much like the rings of a tree. When scientists experimented on the lens tissue of 28 female Greenland sharks from the north Atlantic, using radiocarbon dating on the innermost layer of the lens, they estimated the two biggest sharks to be around 335 to 392 years old.

The strange organism found in the eyes of almost all captured Greenland sharks is a crustacean parasite that feeds on the corneal tissue, scarring the eyes. The sharks become nearly blind as a result, but down in the depths of the midnight zone, eyesight is not a necessity.

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