My Favorite Shark: The Greenland Shark

I recently did a blog post about my Top 5 Favorite Sharks. It seemed so unjust to only give my favorite shark a few fun facts, when there are so many things to love about the Greenland Shark!

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The Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is the second largest carnivorous shark in the world. That may sound scary… but the Greenland shark is very slow. Their average cruising speed is 0.76 mph. They are capable of out swimming the average human, but people do not often see Greenland sharks due to the fact that Greenland sharks prefer cold arctic waters and deep depths of 2,000 meters.

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Greenland shark in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Image © Jeffrey Gallant, GEERG.ca

Likewise, Greenland sharks don’t see too much of anything. An estimated 90% of Greenland sharks sport a parasitic copepod in their eyes that renders them partially blind. This doesn’t get in the way of them finding food because Greenland sharks are opportunistic feeders and believed to be scavengers. Greenland shark stomaches have been found with polar bears, horses, and in one case, a whole reindeer (antlers and all)!

With it’s powerful and unique jaw, Greenland sharks anchor the top part of the jaw while rotating the bottom. This leaves their prey with a unique plug pattern in their bodies.

Greenland Shark hide and jaw

Closeup of a Greenland shark jaw and hide. Photo taken by me at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum during my 2012 study abroad trip to Iceland.

 

Those all might be cool facts, but the truth is… my favorite fact is that the Greenland shark is believed to live hundreds of years. Recently a Greenland shark has been dated to be an estimated 400 years of age. That means that there could be a Greenland shark in our oceans today that was alive when William Shakespeare was alive or when Isaac Newton discovered gravity.

How crazy is that!?

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Still from my animated documentary short FINconceivable

On top of all of those cool facts… their meat is poisonous. If consumed it can cause symptoms similar to extreme inebriation. When I studied abroad in Iceland in 2012, we visited the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum where they ferment the meat for 3-5 months to make the traditional Icelandic dish of Hákarl (or kæstur hákarl). Only fermented is Greenland shark meat able to be consumed.

As a shark enthusiast, educator, and promoter of ocean conservation, I believe the consumption of sharks ill-advised in the form of food or any other biproduct. Many sharks are endangered and we must do everything to protect them from being eliminated. What happens If Sharks Disappeared? You can find out more wherever books are sold, in my new children’s book If Sharks Disappeared.

I hope you learned a few awesome things about my favorite shark! I hope to one day meet a Greenland shark. But, for now, I will just continue telling people how cool they are!

Lily


Learn More about Greenland Sharks: