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Greenland Shark

Requin du Groenland

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Greenland Shark

Facts about the Greenland Shark

 Family: Squalidae
Length: 2.5 to 4.5 m, can reach up to 8 m
Weight: 700 to 1,000 kg
Lifespan: possibly up to 100 years

  • Greyish cylindrical body
  • Short and rounded snout
  • Small dorsal fins
  • Very sharp upper teeth
  • Wide lower teeth

After the great white shark, the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is the largest carnivorous shark in the world and the largest fish in the Arctic. Making its home in the North Atlantic, it is the only member of the Squalidae family to inhabit polar waters year-round. It is also found in the frigid depths of Canada’s Saint Lawrence Estuary and Saguenay Fjord. 

Misunderstood giant

Requin du GroenlandAs it lives at depths where divers cannot reach, the Greenland shark remains a big mystery for marine scientists. Questions about it habits, mating frequency and population size continue to go unanswered. Only in 1995 were the first images able to be taken of a live specimen in its native habitat.

 

Dweller of the deeps

The Greenland shark prefers waters where temperatures do not exceed 12° C. It generally travels at depths of 200 to 400 m. The smallest specimens keep closer to the surface, while the largest can dive to depths of over 1000 m. This species lives deeper down by day, and approaches the surface at night. 

Reproduction

Reproductive age remains unknown. However, studies have established that reproductive ability begins when the male reaches a length of 4.5 m, and the female reaches 3 m. In a single litter, up to ten shark pups can be born. 

Slow growing and long living

There is nothing dramatic about the Greenland shark’s growth, which is limited to about 1 cm a year. Some researchers have used this growth rate to estimate the animal’s lifespan. They’ve concluded that that the largest specimens could easily be a century old! 

Appearances can be misleading

Requin du Groenland

The passive appearance of this deep-water shark is misleading. When hunger strikes, it too can strike with astonishing speed, making a meal of almost anything, including squid, seals, cetaceans, fish, seabirds and dead animals. Studies of its stomach contents have turned up the remains of dogs, horses and even reindeer.

Big predator, small fighter

Strangely, this major predator is not a great fighter. Rather than selling its life dearly, it allows itself quite easily to be caught, without putting up much resistance. This rather unusual behaviour contrasts sharply with the shark’s killer instinct.

Toxic flesh

A toxin in the flesh of the Greenland shark takes away all commercial value from the meat. To be edible without danger of poisoning, the meat requires a painstaking process of washing, drying, salting and fermenting. The Greenland shark has been hunted primarily for its liver oil.

Living in polluted waters

In 2006, a Greenland shark fished from the waters of the Saguenay Fjord turned out to be contaminated with industrial waste and heavy metals including mercury. Noting levels of contamination similar to those seen in Saint Lawrence belugas, researchers assumed that the shark had been living in the region for many years.

Concern for the future

Requin du Groenland

Fishing for Greenland shark is banned in certain countries, including Canada, and is strictly regulated in countries where catching it is still legal. Despite these measures, the species is in decline and its future is cause for concern.

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Comments

Âge

Par Syl34, 2017-01-08, 14h27

Si il peut grandir jusqu'à 8m, en prenant 1 cm par ans, et en vennant au monde à 1m, alors ils vivent sûrement bien plus que 200 ans...

jusqu'à deux cent ans

Par manue, 2014-08-08, 14h27

:) date de l'article???????? Merci Réponse : Voici un lien pour plus d'information sur la présence de ce requin dans les eaux du St-Laurent. http://geerg.ca/fr/gshark_1.html

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