Greenland sharks

Ice sharks or Greenland sharks are not sighted in Cape Town, but are a sensation for many South African marine researchers because of their age. Because there are only estimates of the age of the great white shark, many marine researchers are rethinking their old opinion that a Great White Shark can reach an age of 60 to 70 years. Ice sharks and great white sharks have one thing in common. They are the largest known shark species in the world. 

Greenland Sharks - A Wonder of Nature - Information about ice Sharks - Documentary 

If the researchers are right, our living Greenland sharks today, with a little imagination, may have seen the turning point in human history - the discovery of America - perhaps at birth. In any case, they lived before Jan van Riebeeck, who discovered Cape Town, the mother city of South Africa. They survived two world wars, the French Revolution and many inventions, such as the plane, car and telephone. If only we could understand their language - we would learn so much from them! 

Footage - Somniosus microcephalus - size - parasites - sleeping sharks (Somniosidae)

In the latest research reports, marine biologists assume that Greenland sharks (Pacific sleep sharks) live between 370 and 512 years. At 150 years old and 4 meters tall, they only reach sexual maturity. They grow very slowly, exactly 0.5 to 1.1 cm a year. They are cold-blooded animals and therefore their swimming speed is also very slow. 

It is surprising that they catch even nimble seals and fast fish at a top speed of 2.6 km / h. In comparison, the great white shark can achieve a top speed of 60 km / h in an attack. 

Researchers believe that the Greenland shark surprises sleeping animals above or below the water. With the uppermost sharp row of teeth he can impale his prey and with the bottom row of teeth he mangles the prey with the help of his head movements. In the case of fish, it is assumed that he may suck them in with his mouth open. 

Greenland sharks profile 

  • Profile Greenland Sharks or Eisha Sharks - Somniosus microcephalus - oldest vertebrate in the world 
  • Scientific name: Somniosus microcephalus 
  • Greenland shark - Pacific sleeping shark 
  • English name: Greenland Shark 
  • Family: sleeping sharks (Somniosidae) 
  • Class: cartilage fish 
  • Subclass: slab gill 
  • Habitat: deep sea 
  • Second largest shark species - the Great White Shark is the largest shark on our planet 
  • Sightings: Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic. icesharks have already been observed off the North Sea, Biscay to Portugal. Ice sharks were also discovered during dives in the North American Sankt Lorenz stream (approx. 1,200 kilometers long) 
  • Size: 4 to 7.5 meters in length 
  • Preferred water temperatures: from –0.6 to 12 degrees Celsius 
  • Special features: when looking for food, it also swims up estuaries where the temperatures are warmer. 
  • Weight: 2.5 tons 
  • Diving depth: up to 2.2 km depth 
  • Body shape: torpedo-shaped 
  • Head shape: cylindrical and relatively small compared to its massive body 
  • Color of his skin: gray-brown, black-brown, green to olive green and a mix of all colors and therefore a popular artist motif. 
  • Identifying features: white spot on the mouth 
  • Skin: Similar to the great white shark, it has many small, sharp scaly teeth. No diver touches the shark for this reason, since the risk of injury is very high. In earlier times, many fishermen soled the shoes with shark skin so that they could not slip on the wooden planks of the ships. 
  • Special feature: The skin of the female is twice as thick.
  • dorsal fin - very narrow and low 
  • Tail fin - slightly asymmetrical 
  • fins - relatively small 
  • Back fin: - none 
  • Upper row of teeth approx. 48 to 52 pointed teeth 
  • Lower row of teeth approx. 50 to 52 wide incisors and molars 

Shape of the teeth: 
  • triangular teeth - similar to the great white shark - see shark teeth 
  • small eyes 
Special feature of the eyes: 

The cornea and the edges of the eyes are covered with oar crabs (parasites). Since the influence of light in the deep sea is 500 meters, the oar crabs could work as bait for him in the darkness of the deep sea, since they shine ‘‘ cold ’’. When viewed under a microscope, they can develop strong colours. They look rather colourless to the naked eye. 

Another thesis says that after some time they can go blind from the crabs because of the parasites. Neither thesis can be scientifically proven. Basically, an ice shark can survive in the deep sea without eyesight. As with the great white shark, it reacts to vibrations in the water and has a strong sense of smell.

Mating: when mating, the male bites the female's dorsal fin. Since the female has very thick shark skin, it doesn't seem to bother her much. 

Swimming speed: 1.2 km per hour - approx. 34 cm per second - top speed: 2.6 km / h 
Sexual ability: after approx. 150 to 175 years 

Reproduction: Egg-live-bearing 
Young: approx. 10 young sharks 
Size of the young at birth: approx. 40 cm long 
Best observation time: Winter time in the Arctic regions - only during this time it swims in shallow waters. 
Diet: seals, fish, smaller narwhals, crustaceans and squid 

Special feature: Remains of a smaller polar bear have been found in the stomach of an ice shark! Unfortunately, it is not known whether he ate it as a carrion or captured it himself. He is in any case able to break through pack ice and can thus capture seals or birds through the surprise effect. Remains of a moose and reindeer (caribou) were also found in the stomachs of the sharks 

Enemies: humans, sperm whales and maybe orcas (orcas - Orcinus orca) 

Food competition: Greenland whales 

Age determination: radiocarbon method using proteins in the eye lenses. The accuracy of the age determination is + -0 hundred and twenty years. Researchers are also studying the age of marine animals by finding traces of atomic radiation in their tissues. Many atmospheric tests were carried out in the 1950s by thermonuclear weapons (an evolution of the atomic bomb) regardless of losses in the depths of the oceans. 

Greenland shark meat is extremely toxic and contains large amounts of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) when eaten fresh. It helps marine animals as an antifreeze and to regulate the osmotic pressure during their dives. Fishermen still eat the meat because they treat it specially. It is frozen and thawed several times in holes in the ground. Then dried in air-permeable wooden boxes for a few months and cut into cubes before eating. The end product is the Hákarl specialty. It is often served with the Icelandic brandy Brennivín. Dog food is also made from the product. In the past, in Greenland and Norway, the shark was hunted only for the liver. 

Red List: 
  • potentially at risk 
Special feature: 
Greenlandic fishermen killed up to 50,000 ice sharks a year in the 1960s. The number of sharks caught must have exceeded the one million mark. 

Greenland Sharks Profile ice sharks 

The species of sharks native to the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean is endangered due to overfishing of the oceans. The new basic trawls of modern fishing boats are the biggest problem alongside pollution of the world's oceans. It is very likely that it will be caught before it reaches sexual maturity and will not be able to reproduce. 

The rising sea level, melting ice and the industrialization of the Arctic regions (mineral resources such as oil and gas) are major and justified concerns for many scientific experts. 

In particular, the increased shipping traffic causes a hell of a noise for the sensitive sea creatures. The damage to our ecosystems is becoming much greater due to the greed of the industrialized nations and the living space of the giants of the sea is becoming smaller and smaller. Half a millennium of life and we humans destroy the habitat of ice sharks and other sea creatures within a few decades! 

The following video shows how much life is under the polar ice. The German research ship ‘’ Polar stern ’’ has tested a newly developed diving robot from NASA. This created sensational pictures & videos of the underwater world. If you were diving in the South Pacific, the recordings of corals and starfish would have been normal, but not in the Arctic Ocean. If the ecosystem at the North Pole changes so rapidly, many of the newly discovered aquatic animals will die quickly. 

The Arctic Ocean has changed a lot over the past 35 years and almost 50% of the icebergs have melted due to global warming. Scientists expect sea levels to rise by one to three meters in the next 200 years. 

The ice is now melting faster than expected and in 20 years entire sections of the coast could sink into the sea. Island states like Singapore or the big city Tokyo will disappear from the map. The US state of Florida in particular can expect severe flooding. Over 150 million people, many of them in Asia, live one meter above sea level and a new migration of people with unimaginable dimensions can and will arise. The oceans have risen by approx. 7.6 cm and sometimes even by 23 cm since 1992. Should the ice surface collapse, the sea level can rise faster than we can imagine. 

The first cities and regions are already having problems 
  • Parts of the steep coast in English Cornwall sink into the sea. 
  • In the English county of Devon, a house fell into the sea. Nearby, the famous singer Kate Bush has her property and has been informed by the city administration that her house could soon slip off. 
  • The city of Pacifica had big problems due to big waves, which were partly triggered by the weather phenomenon El Niño. Many residents had to leave their homes. 
  • In Dover (English Channel Coast) parts of the world-famous white chalk cliffs have slipped into the sea. 
Similar problems will also arise off the coast of South Africa and the Great White Shark, too, will be lucky to survive the next 50 years just outside Cape Town unless further protection zones are established and global warming is reduced. 

If you are interested in exploring the Great White Sharks in Cape Town, we can offer you cage diving in Gansbaai. Our Cape Town shark tour takes you into the Overberg region, which is about a 2 hours' drive from Cape Town. 

We look forward to your inquiry. 

Your Cape Town Shark Tour Team 

PS: Unfortunately the quality of the ice sharks pictures are not very good. Should you have better ones please send them to us. 


Contact for Greenland sharks