Greenland Shark Facts Because “SHARK WEEK!”

Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus)

Greenland sharks are seriously interesting sharks, so I was really looking forward to doing the Info portion of this post. 🙂 I had also intended to include an illustration like I did for my recent Whale Shark Post, but 1.) Greenland sharks are kind of wonky to try to draw/color (at least for me) and 2.) My access to scanners is much more limited at the moment than I had anticipated. So thank you google images! Phew! Excuses aside, onto the info:

Greenland sharks are part of the family of sharks known as Somniosidae, more commonly known as “sleeper sharks”. As the name would imply, this group of sharks are the more mellow of the bunch, swimming at lower speeds and just being pretty “chill” in general. The Greenland shark specifically is known to be the world’s slowest shark, not even reaching 1 mile per hour.

Other names for the Greenland shark include: the “gurry shark”, “grey shark”, and “eqalussuaq“.

These guys get old. Like, realllly old. Being the longest-living of all vertebrate species, these big guys are estimated to be capable of living for anywhere between 200 to even 500 years!

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Many people tend to only think of sharks living in warmer waters, but Greenland sharks prefer the cold. In fact, they can be found thriving in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters year round, making the waters around Greenland, Iceland, and Canada their home.

Comparable in size with the Great White, these predators have never been recorded to attack humans. They sustain themselves by hunting and scavenging, and have been found with some interesting things in their stomachs when caught. (One particular Greenland shark on record was even found with the body of an entire reindeer in its stomach!) Due to their slow speed, scientists were surprised that these guys were able to prey on living seals which can travel so much faster . . . until they discovered that Greenland sharks were nomming on the speedy little guys while they were sleeping under water.

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Due to the depths these guys like to hang out in, their tissue is loaded with a potent neurotoxin (trimethylamine oxide) making their meat toxic. Despite this, they are still hunted for food, and through a lengthy and longstanding process involving fermentation and curing of the meat, they are not only eaten, but even considered a delicacy in Iceland.

There are loads of other awesome things to learn about these sharks whether it comes to them themselves or the mythology that surrounds them. Seriously, if you’re looking for an interesting shark to research, look no further than the Greenland shark. They may not be much to look at to most, but they truly are fascinating. 🙂

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