Greenland Shark

Greenland Shark    Somniosus microcephalus

Type of Animal:
Sleeper Shark

Cold water (preferring deeper water) near shelves/slopes of at least 0 ft but up to 7,218 ft underwater, deep fjords, coastal ocean, open ocean, ranging from 28-68 F, goes into shallower waters in colder months, edges of ice flows, intertidal regions, river mouths, shallow bay areas

N. Atlantic & parts of Arctic Ocean nearby. Has been seen as far S as Georgia, Gulf of Mexico, & Spain. Sightings in SW coast of Africa, Argentina, & sub-Antarctic/Antarctic waters.

Thickset w/ small eyes, short round snout, small dorsal/pectoral fins, color ranges from pale creamy-gray to blackish-brown, sometimes has whitish spots or faint dark streaks on back, short broad tail

Other sharks, skates, eels, herring, capelin, sculpins, lumpfish, wolffish, redfish, flounder, cod, arctic char, rosefish, squid, crustaceans, seals, carrion, seabirds, porpoises, reindeer/caribou, horses, moose, polar bears, beluga whales, narwhals

Status in Wild:

More research on the species

Solitary, though groups of 4-10 congregate around food sites

Additional Info:

Male: 880-1,980 lbs
Female: 1,800-2,200 lbs

Life Span:
400, possibly more than 500 years

Body Length:
Male: 6.5-15 ft
Female: 13-21 ft
Young: 4 ft

Adults might rarely be preyed on by orcas, though orcas prefer young animals.
Longest known lifespan of any vertebrate.
Possibly reaches sexual maturity at 150 years old.
These sharks ovoviviparous, producing young by means of eggs hatched in mom, resulting in live birth.

Fun Fact(s):
Due to poisonous flesh, it gave rise to Inuit legend of 1st Greenland Shark known as Skalugsuak. Legend says old woman washed hair in urine & dried it w/ cloth-cloth blew into ocean to become Skalugsuak. Another legend tells of dad who cut off daughter’s fingers while drowning her, w/ each finger turning into a sea creature, including said shark.
Flesh toxic due to high concentrations of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO)/urea. If meat eaten w/o pretreatment, ingested TMAO metabolized into trimethylamine, producing effects similar to extreme drunkenness. To be treated, it needs to boiled in several changes of water, dried, and/or fermented for several months to produce delicacy hakarl, which is popular in Iceland. Before fermentation, meat buried in ground for 6-12 weeks, pressing TMAO out of meat & resulting in partial fermentation. Meat then dug up/hung in strips to dry for several more months.
Meat known for ammonia-like smell & extremely acquired taste-in fact, famous late chef Anthony Bourdain described hakarl (fermented shark) as single worst, most disgusting, & terrible tasting thing he’s ever eaten.

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