Largest sharks in the world – Greenland shark

Posted on Apr 13, 2012 in Size


Greenland shark

Greenland shark

Big and fearsome

Often bigger than the more notorious great white, Greenland sharks live further north than any other shark species and swim in the deep cold polar waters around Iceland an Greenland.


How big can it get?

Big. This apex predator can reach lengths in excess of six metres (20-feet) and weighs in at a cool ton.


What does it eat?

This shark is so fearsome its even been known to tuck into polar bears and reindeers. However, its more usual diet would be the fish and seals that frequent its waters.


How does it hunt?

This titan of the sea is often sluggish and appears to be sleeping, which accounts for its alternate name, the sleeper shark. Despite this, it can strike quickly when prey approaches. Its top jaw is designed to hold an unwitting victim whilst the bottom jaw savages. It may also be a scavenger, feasting on carrion.


How dangerous is it?

Humans are unlikely to encounter the Greenland shark in the wild, but those that have been caught have proven dangerous in an unexpected manner. In order to eat this ‘whale meat’ a hunter would need to boil it in water many times over because its flesh is heavily toxic. That said it hasn’t put off the hardy Icelanders who serve its flesh as part of their national dish called Hakari!


How many are left?

Due to overfishing and a slow reproduction rate, it is considered near-threatened. Continued encroachment by humans will likely move the population closer to endangered status.


Anything else?

Swimming in the deep, dark depths of the ocean, this hulk could use a little light; which is exactly what a tiny bioluminescent parasite that lives harmoniously on the shark’s eyelids provides. The parasite’s glow rather helpfully attracts prey for the shark to devour.


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