The Greenland Shark is so Slow it Can Only Eat Something if it is Asleep, Dead or Wanders into its Mouth

6376473_origOne of the most peculiar animals I have come across is the rare Greenland Shark, these massive creatures can grow up to 24 feet long and live in the cold Arctic waters around Greenland, Iceland and Canada where temperatures can be as low as -1°C.  To preserve their energy in these cold waters they swim very slowly at less than 1 mile an hour, exerting their energy they can achieve a burst of speed that reaches 1.7 miles per hour but as their main prey, the Seal, can swim at speeds of around 6 mph, this doesn’t do the shark much good!

Due to the slow swimming speed of the shark, trying to grab a meal is quite an issue, researchers have learned that they are most likely ambush predators, waiting until their prey is asleep (usually Seals in the water) and then slowly approaching. They have also been found to be scavengers and eat carrion (dead and decaying flesh of animals) and they are not picky eaters either. Researchers have found many different and unusual animals in the stomachs of Greenland Sharks including polar bears, horses, moose and even an entire reindeer!

Greenland Sharks can also live for a very long time, some scientists have estimated that the larger sharks are over 200 years old based on how much they grow in size per year. The flesh of the Greenland Shark is also poisonous and eating them can cause intestinal distress and neurological effects very similar to extreme drunkenness. However it can be eaten if prepared in a very specific and peculiar way, you must bury the shark flesh in the ground for 6-12 weeks to press the fluids out of the body, it is then cut into strips and hung up to dry for several months and finally cut into little cubes. This is called Hákarl and is the national dish of Iceland, Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain described Hákarl as being “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten.


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