A Greenland shark has been discovered in the warm tropical waters off Belize, with researchers stunned at their find and wondering why it was so far away from artic waters.
This species of shark usually habituates around the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans but this particular one happened to be found all the way down in temperate waters in the Caribbean.
Scientists from Florida International University were at Glover’s reef-a coral atoll in Belize-where they were tagging tiger sharks. On one occasion they were reeling in a shark and quickly realised that it wasn’t a tiger shark.
“As soon as it entered our field of vision, we saw a black figure that was getting bigger and bigger. When it came to the surface, none of the crew with all of their combined fishing experience had seen anything like that,” said PhD candidate Devanshi Kasana.
“[It] looked really, really old”.
Greenland sharks are known to live up to 500 years and because they generally live at such low depths, their meat is toxic.
On average they grow about 0.5 to 1cms every year, eventually growing to approximately 6.4m long and weighing up to 1000kgs, feeding mostly on fish but also sometimes on seals.
Although the latest discovery in Belize has caught some researchers off guard, others say that the Greenland shark can actually be found all over the world.
However when they are found in other parts of the globe, it’s usually at a much deeper level, around 2100m, something that correlates with where the Greenland shark was observed in Belize.
“[Glovers reef] slopes suddenly and the depth goes really deep really fast,” Kasana said. “We believe the line dragged from a much shallower depth to the drop-off, which is why we ended up catching this individual,” said Kasana.
The shark was not tagged but measured and noted before being let go.