Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: Greenland shark

Nominated by: SharkFest

Why do you love it?

The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is the oldest living vertebrate animal – previously thought to be the bowhead whale – and one of the Arctic’s most mysterious species!

Weighing 900kg on average and reaching up to 7m long, the Greenland shark is one of only 2 sharks found in the Arctic, and one of the largest sharks on the planet. Despite reaching a similar size as the Great White shark, Greenland sharks are so slow that they are often called ‘sleeper sharks’ and they are blinded by parasites that feed on their eyes.

Scientists recently found a 400-year-old female Greenland shark, who would have reached sexual maturity at about 150 years old. She was born during the reign of James I, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution began, and has lived through 2 world wars.

Greenland sharks prey upon almost everything – eels, whales, sea urchins, seals, crabs, fish, other sharks and even polar bear and caribou! The Greenland shark’s position as one of the top predators of the Arctic food chain makes it a very important species to research and conserve.

What are the threats to the Greenland Shark?

Unfortunately, Greenland sharks are easy to catch because of their size and slow speed. Fishermen by Nunavut’s turbot fisheries and elsewhere often accidently catch Greenland sharks (as bycatch), and because they’re not edible they’re discarded.

The varied diet of the Greenland shark could also put them at risk of eating human-created wastes and pollutants that are not part of the shark’s natural diet. Human development, travel and climate change also impact the fragile environment that the Greenland sharks rely on.

Luckily Greenland shark populations are currently believed to be healthy!

What are you doing to save it?

SharkFest UK is encouraging marine conservation organisations to collaborate for the good of sharks and rays worldwide. SharkFest UK also inspires children and students to take up a career in shark research, education and/ or conservation.

WWF is supporting and participating in research that tracks Greenland sharks as part of the Ocean Tracking Network for monitoring sustainable ocean management around the world.

Today very little is known about the Greenland shark – critical hunting habitats, mating and birth, how many young they have, etc. This information is crucial for understanding the impacts of human-activities on Greenland sharks, and learning how we can best protect this mysterious, ancient shark.

VOTE NOW!

May 7

If you live in the UK and are a fan of sharks, then you are in serious luck! The BBC is launching a 3-part documentary series celebrating one of the most magnificent fish in the sea – the shark! It’s the first BBC series ever to be dedicated to sharks taking about two years to make, 2,646 hours underwater, 1.5 million liters of air, and having only one camera eaten by a shark!

For those in the UK who want to learn more about the sharks featured in the BBC series, why not use the commercial breaks to swim through Arkive’s extensive library of images, videos and information on several shark species. For everyone else around the world, let’s dive deep into the Arkive shark collection to explore some of the species that will be featured in the series!

The Movie Star

Great-white-shark-swimming-anterior-view (1)

Let’s start, with perhaps the most famous cinematic star of all time, the great white shark! While the great white is not a ferocious man-eater, it is however a skilled predator that often feasts upon turtles, mollusks, crustaceans and even small cetaceans. Also, they can maintain their body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water through a heat exchange system.

The Speedy Fellow

Blacktip-shark-at-surface-of-water-dorsal-view

As it name suggests the most distinctive feature of the blacktip shark is the black coloration on some of its fins. This shark is one of the more athletically built sharks with its torpedo-shaped body which allows it to easily cut through the water. It uses it agility to its advantage in swimming vertically through schools of fish spinning and snapping in all directions until it breaches the surface.

The Couch Potato

Greenland-shark-head

One could say the Greenland shark has has an affinity for frigid waters, since it inhabits the icy waters of the Arctic and northern Atlantic. Even though this shark is known for its sluggish movements, it still has a diverse diet that includes fish, seals and even cetaceans. An odd affliction for most Greenland sharks is a bizarre copepod that attaches to their corneas and overtime damages their eyesight.

The Night Owl

Female-whitetip-reef-shark-showing-mating-scars

 

This slender whitetip reef shark exhibits an almost Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde personality shift, since it is relatively docile during the day, but becomes considerably more aggressive when hunting at night. While usually a solo hunter, this shark is not opposed to hunting with another in capturing prey such as octopus, lobster and crabs. To capture its prey, it sometimes chases them into a crevice and proceeds to jam its body in after it, thus sealing off the exit.

The Master of Disguise

Tasselled-wobbegong-anterior-view

The well camouflaged tasseled wobbegong hardly resembles the stereotypical image of the shark, since it possess a flat and wide body.  The wobbegong has a magnificent “beard” that resembles succulent morsels of food, which attracts unsuspecting fish toward its mouth. Its flattened body allows for great maneuverability in squirming into enclosed spaces.

 

BBC Sharks debuts tonight at 8:55pm on BBC One in the UK

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

 

 

 

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