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Greenland Shark

 

The Greenland Shark is also known as Sleeper shark, Ground shark, Gray shark and Gurry shark.

Greenland Shark

 

 

  • GREENLAND SHARK

Scientific name.........Somniosus Microcephalus

Family name...........Dalatiidae

 

  • GENERAL DESCRIPTION

Greenland sharks are large, slow-swimming sharks that have glow-in-the-dark eyes. They have a short snout, thin lips, and small fins, a caudal fin with a well-developed lower lobe, and two small, spineless dorsal fins; they lack an anal fin. This shark has a bioluminescent ( glowing ) copepods attached to the Greenland shark's corneas. This may attract curious prey to the shark's head. The gill openings are very small in comparison to its size and are located low on the sides of the shark's head.

 

  • SIZE

Greenland sharks average in size from 8 to 14 feet with females being the larger sex. This shark reaches a maximum length of about 21 feet; although it may grow to 24 feet, and weighing 1,020. Growth of this shark is very slow due to the cold temperatures of its climate. There are no known predators of the Greenland shark, which is most likely due to its massive size.

 

  • TEETH

The teeth of the Greenland shark's upper jaw are long and pointed, very different from those of its lower jaw, which are strongly oblique, sharp, and close set. These teeth allow it to gouge large chunks of flesh from dead cetaceans, and probably to remove the heads of seals and sea lions rapidly before dining on the carcasses.

 

  • COLOR

The Greenland shark varies between a black, brown, and gray color. Although this shark is usually uniform in color, it may often be marked with dark lines or white spots along its back and sides.

 

  • FEEDING HABITS

This sharks diet consists of a large variety of ocean dwellers such as other small sharks, skates, eels, herring, capelin, char, various gadoids, redfish, sculpins, lumpfish, wolfish, and flounders. Marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises, are often taken by Greenland sharks despite it being characterized as a very sluggish creature. A few Greenland shark specimens have even been found to contain an entire reindeer and parts of a horse. The shark is also known to feed off carion and is attracted to ill-smelling meat. This sluggish shark can capture such wily and fast-moving prey may be because of small copepods that attach themselves to the corneas of the shark's eyes. Brightly luminescent, these copepods are thought to attract curious and hungry prey, which soon end up in the shark's cavernous maw.

 

  • SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

They often congregate in large numbers around fishing operations.

 

  • HABITAT

They are found in North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean occasionally to Portugal. This gigantic dogfish shark is the only polar shark of the Atlantic Ocean. It lives in deep water to 1,800 feet in continental and insular shelves and upper slopes in water temperatures of 36-45 F (2 to 7 C). Inshore in Arctic winter ( from intertidal and surface in shallow bays and river mouths ), retreats to 590 to 1,804 feet when temperature rises. May move into shallower water in spring and summer in north Atlantic.

 

  • LIFE SPAN

Unknown

 

  • REPRODUCTION

Little is known about the Greenland shark's reproductive behaviour. It was recently discovered to be ovoviviparous. The female carries a large number of soft-shelled eggs eventually giving birth to full-term embryos. Some eggs have been reported to be as large as goose eggs. One 16 feet specimen was reported to have contained ten ,15 inches long full-term embryos in one of its uteri.

 

  • SWIMMING

This species is a very sluggish slow-swimming shark, and provides little resistance when captured.

 

  • SHARK ATTACKS

Potentially harmful. The lack of recorded attacks may only be due to the shark's habitat, which is much too cold to be populated by common swimmers, therefore, significantly reducing the chance of an attack on a human.

 

  • POPULATION REPORT

Not uncommon.

 

  • INTERESTING FACTS

This shark has been classified as Somniosus microcephalus by Bloch and Schneider ( 1801 ). Roughly translated, Somniosus pertains to "sleep" which describes the shark's sluggish movement, and microcephalus literally means "small head".

Inuit's often catch this fish by luring it to a hole chopped in the ice and either harpooning it or simply dragging it out of the water by hand. Its flesh, however, unless properly prepared is highly toxic and causes symptoms similar to those caused by too much alcohol. The Greenland shark is poisonous if eaten fresh, it is edible when the meat has been dried. The flesh of the shark contains high concentrations of urea and trimthylamine oxide, which is said to intoxicating inducing an alcoholic affect.

Because this species inhabits very deep waters of the ocean, it is almost completely dark, except for the light made by other animals. Pressure can be a thousand times that at the surface. Adaptation at such depths requires the ability to find and capture food, to avoid being eaten, and to find a mate--in the dark.

Eskimos use the dried skin of the shark as leather for making boots and the lower dental bands of the shark as knives primarily for cutting hair or hunting.
 
     

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