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Greenland Shark: 21 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Greenland Shark facts like their lifespan is the longest of all vertebrate animals are interesting.

The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is the second-largest carnivorous shark after the Great White. They are apex predators that can feed on smaller sharks, fishes, squid, and even reindeer and moose. They are dangerous for animals smaller than them. A Greenland shark size comparison shows it is four times bigger than an average human being. Greenland shark flesh is poisonous due to the presence of trimethylamine oxide. The meat is treated for a few months before it becomes edible. They can also be referred to as slow giants as they have a very slow swimming speed. They are found deep under the ocean's surface.

In this article, you will find information about the Greenland shark population, Greenland shark poisonous skin, the Greenland shark diet, the Greenland shark age in the sea, and so on.

You may also check out the fact files on the sandbar shark and cookiecutter shark from Kidadl.

Greenland Shark Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Greenland shark?

The Greenland shark is one of the largest living species of sharks belonging to the Somnisodae family. They are also known as the gurry shark, gray shark, or by their Inuit name Eqalussuaq. They are predominantly found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.

What class of animal does a Greenland shark belong to?

Greenland shark is a type of large-sized fish belonging to the Animalia kingdom, class Chondrichthyes.

How many Greenland sharks are there in the world?

Greenland sharks are categorized as Vulnerable or a Near Threatened species under the IUCN Red List. Greenland shark lifespan is the longest of all vertebrate species, yet there are chances of them becoming endangered. Their main threats are overfishing and climate change. If those threats are not improved, they are likely to become endangered.

Where does a Greenland shark live?

The Greenland shark is mostly found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. As the name suggests, Greenland sharks live in the waters around Greenland. In the North Atlantic Ocean region, it can be found in Norway, Iceland, and Canada.

What is a Greenland shark's habitat?

The shark, being cold-blooded, likes cold water. The Greenland shark habitat is ideally frigid waters. They prefer to stay in waters with temperatures ranging from 30.2-50 F (-1 to 10 C). Greenland sharks migrate to the coldest part of the water each season. They can be found in Canada's arctic.

Who do Greenland Sharks live with?

Greenland sharks, like other sharks, are independent from birth.

How long does a Greenland shark live?

Greenland sharks are the longest living vertebrates known to man. Scientists have discovered that Greenland sharks can live for 400 years or more; analyzing Greenland shark eyes helped in reaching this conclusion. The transparent tissues found in the eyes of a Greenland shark are metabolically inactive. Like the rings of a tree, new layers of transparent tissues are added during the lifetime of a Greenland shark. Scientists examined the eye-lens nuclei of around twenty-eight female Greenland sharks captured in the North Atlantic. They used Radiocarbon dating to measure the number of carbon isotopes absorbed by the shark’s eye-lens nuclei. That experiment suggested that the oldest Greenland shark may be more than 500 years old.

How do they reproduce?

According to Greenland sharks' biology, they reach sexual maturity at the age of around 150 years of age. They mate via internal fertilization and give live birth to relatively large-sized pups. Female sharks do not deposit their eggs in the bottom mud. They also do not connect to their pups through a placenta. Instead, during the gestation period, the developing embryos are retained within their bodies off of yolk sacs so they are born alive. That process is known as Ovoviviparity.

The estimated gestation period is around 8-18 years. Villi serves the key function of supplying oxygen to the embryos within a female Greenland Shark’s uterus. Limited litter size of 10 pups is normal, wherein each can measure around 15-17 in (38-42 cm) in length initially. After they reach sexual maturity, these species grow at a rate of less than 1 cm (0.5 in) a year. Their incredibly slow growth rate and their large size give us the idea that they live for a large number of years. Due to its extreme longevity and its biology, a Greenland shark can have approximately 200 to 700 pups during its lifetime.

What is their conservation status?

Greenland sharks are categorized as Vulnerable or Near Threatened species under the IUCN Red List. The liver oil of Greenland sharks is valued all across the world. Commercial fishing of Greenland sharks was historically done to procure liver oil. Climate change is another factor leading to the decreasing number of these fish. A Greenland shark's lifespan can be around 400 years, yet their slow growth rate, late maturity period, and low fecundity call for their conservation. Another threat has been bycatch of the fish mistakenly. The management and the conservation of the Greenland shark have become extremely important to save it from extinction.

Greenland Shark Fun Facts

What do Greenland sharks look like?

Greenland sharks (Somniosus Microcephalus) are the second-largest carnivorous sharks species known, also by the names gurry shark, gray shark, sleeper shark, or by the Inuit name Eqalussuaq. It is a thickset species, with a sluggish look. It consists of a cylindrical body, a small head with a short rounded snout, and tiny eyes. They are very unusual in their appearance. Their pectoral and dorsal fins are very small. They have very fine gill openings when compared with the huge size of the species.

The color of their body can range from light creamy-gray to blackish-brown. Some white spots or dark streaks can be occasionally found at the back of the sharks.

Greenland shark teeth consist of 48-52 upper teeth and 50-52 square, smooth bottom teeth. The Greenland shark bite of the upper teeth helps in grasping prey while the lower teeth crush the flesh. Let us find out some more Greenland shark facts for kids.

Greenland shark is huge and sluggish.

How cute are they?

The Greenland shark has a sluggish look which cannot be exactly described as cute. They are not particularly famous for their cuteness.

How do they communicate?

Greenland sharks are not animals that live in packs. Since their birth, they live their individual lives. Greenland sharks can dive to extreme depths and hence are not seen frequently. They are also considered scavengers, who can eat flesh they can find. They are extremely slow-moving which gave them the name “sleeper sharks”. With the help of their slow speed and cryptic coloration, Greenland sharks can approach their prey undetected and hunt them when they are asleep.

How big is a Greenland shark?

The Greenland shark is one of the largest living sharks thronging ocean waters. Their average length is around 8-15.7 ft (2.4-4.8 m), but they can grow up to 24 ft (7.3 m) in length. They can weigh anywhere between 880-3,100 lb (399.1- 1,406.1 kg). Females are typically bigger than males. If we analyze the biology of a Greenland shark's size, we can say that it is four times larger than average humans.

How fast can a Greenland shark swim?

The swimming speed of a Greenland shark is very slow. They believe in the adage ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Their average swimming speed is 0.7 mph (1.1 kph). However, they are also known for sudden short bursts of speed. The slow moving speed helps them in hunting their prey.

How much does a Greenland shark weigh?

The weight of the huge Greenland shark can range anywhere between 880-3,100 lb (399.1-1,406.1 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Greenland sharks are known with various other names like gurry shark, gray shark, or eqalussuaq (their Inuit name). However, males and females do not have different names.

What would you call a baby Greenland shark?

A baby Greenland shark is called a pup. The litter size of a Greenland shark is 10 pups. As this shark species live for a long time, it can give birth to 200-700 pups in its lifetime.

What do they eat?

The Greenland shark enjoys an active hunting pattern. They are known as apex predators and scavengers. They can eat any flesh they can find. Known Greenland shark preys include smaller fishes, eels, seals, smaller sharks, skates, codfish, flounder, lumpfish, sculpins, rosefish, and wolffish. For smaller-sized Greenland shark food includes squid, while the larger ones enjoy epibenthic and benthic fishes as well as seals. Remains of animals like polar bears, moose, and reindeer have also been uncovered from the stomachs of Greenland sharks.

Are they dangerous?

Being a large animal, it is considered an apex predator. Hence, they are dangerous for animals smaller than them. A large Greenland shark has the ability to easily consume humans. However, they are extremely fond of frigid waters where humans can't inhabit. That makes the likelihood of a Greenland shark attack on human beings nearly zero and there is no recorded evidence as well.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these huge sharks are meant to stay in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. They are not meant as pets.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

Greenland sharks are considered master divers and can dive to extreme depths. They can go as deep as 7,218 ft (2,200 m). As they can dive to deeper oceans, they are not spotted frequently. They are even found relaxing on the slopes and shelves located under great depths of the ocean’s surface.

Why is the Greenland shark blind?

Greenland sharks are not born blind. However, some populations of the sharks are visually affected by the copepod Ommatokoita elongata parasite. This parasite attaches itself to the eyes of the sharks and damages their corneal tissues. Due to the damage done to the eyeball in various ways, many Greenland sharks turn almost completely blind. It is observed that almost 90% of Arctic Greenland sharks are affected by copepod Ommatokoita elongata.

Why is Greenland shark meat poisonous?

The meat of the Greenland shark is poisonous because of the presence of high concentrations of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). Greenland shark flesh requires pretreatment to make it edible. Without proper pretreatment, the ingested TMAO gets metabolized into trimethylamine and might cause extreme drunkenness. It has been found that sled dogs who ate the untreated flesh were not able to stand up. The treatment to reduce toxin levels of the Greenland shark flesh includes boiling in several changes of water, then drying or fermenting for a few months. The meat dish kæstur hákarl is made using this process. It is considered a delicacy in Iceland is eaten by a lot of people.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these nurse shark facts and basking shark facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Greenland shark coloring pages.

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