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Home* News and Stories → Greenland shark: high levels of long-lived pollutants

Greenland shark: high levels of long-lived pollutants

The Greenland shark is the unknown big animal in marine arctic ecology. Until recently, scientists have not spent too much attention to this large shark, and little is accordingly known about them. But during a scientific catch in Kongsfjord some years ago, surprising numbers were caught: dozens of sharks in a short time. They can be up to 7 m long, which places them amongst the largest sharks in the world.

Surprising was not only the number of sharks present in the bottom waters of Kongsfjord, but also the high levels of long-lived environmental toxins, which equal the high concentrations sadly known from polar bears in Spitsbergen.

Another surprise was their diet: the stomach content was mostly fish and seals. Appearently, they are efficient hunters and not just scavengers, as had been believed until then. The diet is likely to be the reason for the high levels of contaminants, which accumulate through the food chain and over time. The long life span of Greenland sharks may accordingly be another contributing factor to the high level of contamination. During the research catch, the biggest individual caught was as heavy as 700 kg, but not even old enough to reproduce.

Greenland shark in northwestern Greenland


Source: Norwegian Polar Institut

last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange