Greenland Shark

Author and Illustrator: Ella Williams

Photos: Thank you to Andy Murch for the use of his Photos

Common name: Greenland Shark,  Gurry Shark, Grey Shark

Scientific name: Somniosus microcephalus

Size: generally 8 to 14 feet in length (up to 24 feet)

Identifying Features   One of the largest living sharks, the Greenland Shark is a pale warm gray. Although they are commonly 8-14 feet long, Greenland sharks as large as 24 feet have been recorded. It is part of the Sleeper Shark family Somniosidae. The Greenland shark is heavy-set, with rounded features and disproportionately small fins for its size.  It has five to six small gills.

 Habitat   The Greenland shark lives in the northern Atlantic and Arctic Ocean, although newer studies show it may go as far as the Caribbean at great depths. Generally, the Greenland shark swims in very deep waters, but occasionally returns to the surface to feed. 

Food (Prey)   The Greenland shark is a generalist feeder that mostly feed on fish, however, it has been known to eat a variety of creatures, including polar bears, reindeer, horses and other large land mammals.

Predators   The Greenland shark has no natural predators other than humans. It is eaten as a delicacy in Iceland. 

Life Cycle   Greenland sharks give live birth and can have up to ten pups. Interestingly, greenland shark pups are not connected to a placenta, and rather survive off of yolk sacs. They have an incredibly long gestation period of 8-18 years, and are thought to be able to give birth to 200 to 700 pups during their lifetime. Greenland sharks mate via internal fertilization.

Fun Facts   Most Greenland sharks are blind! They are prone to parasitic copepods called Ommatokoita attaching themselves to their corneas, causing severe vision loss. It is theorized that these parasites could have a  potentially mutualistic relationship with the shark, as they could provide bioluminescence and attract prey. This has not been proven.  Another fun fact is that Greenland Sharks are estimated to live up to 250 years and possibly over 500 years making them the longest living vertebrate on the planet!


How long do Greenland sharks live? (n.d.). NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from

Greenland Shark. (n.d.). Oceana.

Government of Canada, F. and O. C. (2016, December 19). Greenland shark.

‌Greenland shark | Size, Age, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica.

Greenland shark. (2021, November 7). Wikipedia.

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