The Greenland Shark
You might not have heard of the Greenland shark but they’re one of the ugliest, and most interesting, species of shark. Despite being one of the largest fish in the ocean, the Greenland shark seems pretty unimpressive on paper. This sluggish beast has tiny teeth and is one of the slowest swimming of all sharks. Its average speed is less than one mile an hour and its fastest speed – just 1.6mph – is half that of a seal. Not much of a threat, right?
Yet these mysterious animals, which live in deep, cold water and are rarely seen by humans, are pretty awesome.
First of all, let’s give you a look at its ugly mug so you know what we’re talking about.
Not a looker, right?
We tend to think of sharks as being elegant predators – not this guy. There’s no denying the fact that this is not a pretty shark. In fact, it’s pretty hideous.
Thought your nana was old?
Scientists recently discovered the Greenland shark can live for around 400 years, making it the longest living vertebrate on the planet! Put that in perspective, there might be a Greenland shark in the ocean right now that was alive during the reign of Charles I, the Great Plague, the Fire of London and the lifetime of Napoleon.
Lots of us have nicknames we’re not too fond of. But this poor guy can’t even catch a break from scientists. His scientific name, ‘Somniosus Microcephalus’, means ‘sleepy pinhead’. Not the most flattering…
For years, scientists thought the slow-moving Greenland shark was a bottom feeder, munching on rotting scraps that fell to the ocean floor. But when scientists started finding mauled seals washed up on the shore of Sable Island, they realised it might not be totally harmless after all…
The dead seals they found had been skinned alive, their pelts ripped off in a corkscrew motion like peeling an orange, giving the predator the nickname ‘the corkscrew killer’. Yikes.
All sharks have massive, terrifying teeth, right? Not quite. This ugly brute uses its tiny, sharp upper teeth to get a grip on its prey as it spins in a circular motion to make its lower teeth slice through flesh like a saw. Unlike the jagged bite of a Great White, this leaves a perfectly clean cut.
Blind as a bat
As well as being pretty hideous, slow and having tiny teeth, most Greenland sharks are almost completely blind. That little thing you notice dangling from the eyes of Greenland sharks in pictures? It’s a parasite called Ommatokoita elongata, which attaches itself permanently to the shark’s cornea, blinding it.
Hide and seek
Living in dark, murky waters is actually an advantage to the Greenland shark. It uses its keen sense of smell to track down sleeping seals and ambush them in low visibility water – they (literally) wouldn’t even see it coming!
It might not be as well known as the infamous Great White but this fugly Greenland Shark is pretty cool all the same.