Researchers were astonished to discover a rare, deep-sea Greenland shark during a survey in Arctic waters, the first time one of these animals has ever been glimpsed so far to the Northeast.
According to National Georgraphic, the rare shark was spotted on video by a research team operating around Franz Josef Land, a collection of 192 islands north of the Barents Sea. The scientists were there to study the biodiversity of the islands, and recently published their findings in the scientific journal Peer J.
Recovering his rig from nearly 700 feet down and viewing the footage, National Geographic mechanical engineer Alan Turchik was astonished when a Greenland shark bumped into his remote camera. Just 6.5 feet in length, the shark was a juvenile, as Greenland sharks can grow up to 23 feet in length, one of the largest species of shark in the world.
After nearly three hours of observing the seafloor, interrupted only by a single jellyfish, Turchik had a joyful, expletive-filled reaction to the shark’s appearance, which was recorded by cameraman Michael Pagenkopf.
“I didn’t even know there were sharks up there,” Turchik noted.
Greenland sharks are an enigma to scientists, and little is known about the species. As the Inquisitr previously reported, Greenland sharks live in dark, cold waters, and as a result, have few interactions with humans. Greg Skomal, a senior scientist at Massachusetts Marine Fisheries who wasn’t involved in the survey, related that scientists are unsure how big the sharks get or how long they live, and it remains unclear if they are predators or scavengers.
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“These are really basic questions about an animal that we know virtually nothing about,” he noted.
Greenland sharks have been spotted off the coasts of Canada, Portugal, France, Scotland and Scandinavia, according to the BBC, and researchers believe the sharks may have many other habitats where they simply haven’t been spotted yet. The sharks only come near the surface in areas where the water is cold enough for them, like the Arctic, and studies there have revealed bits of information about the rare fish.
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Tagging studies have established that the sharks move achingly slow, with a top speed of less than two miles an hour. Greenland sharks have been known to prey on seals, and researchers believe they could be ambush predators. Seals occasionally sleep in the water to avoid polar bears, giving the sharks a chance to sneak up on them. Greenland sharks have also been found with the remains of reindeer and polar bears in their stomachs, proving they will eat nearly anything that falls off the ice.
[Image via National Georgraphic]