Greenland Shark

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Photographer - Nick Caloyianis “Slow and spooky, an 11-foot [3.4-meter] shark cruises past a submerged ice ledge where seals often rest. Never before photographed beneath Arctic ice, the Greenland shark, whose scientific name, Somniosus microcephalus, means ‘small-headed sleeper,’ has eluded close study until now.” —From “Greenland Sharks,” September 1998, National Geographic magazine

Mysterious Greenland shark is Canada's Crocodile

By LES PERREAUX
Canadian Press
July 09/03

   QUEBEC - The giant shark goes by the name Sleeper but kills large caribou after lying in wait - crocodile-style - at the mouth of Canada's northern rivers.
   Canadian researchers are now trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding the great northern Greenland shark after at least four of them were discovered in the St. Lawrence River near Baie-Comeau, Que.
   "We've got so many things through these dives and this footage that we didn't have a clue about before," said Jeffrey Gallant, a shark researcher who went diving in June with at least four Greenland sharks.
   "We've been working on this shark for years and it's extremely exciting to be learning so much."
   While researchers knew the Greenland shark ventured along the St. Lawrence, a diving team led by Gallant and co-researcher Chris HarveyClark took what is believed to be the first known video of the fish swimming freely in a natural environment.
   The footage and close-up observation are debunking several myths about the shark, starting with the theory that the animal is dopey and docile.
   When Gallant and his researchers swam near the sharks, the fish assumed a defensive stance with its pectoral fins pointing downwards, similar to the pose of Caribbean reef sharks when they feel threatened.
   On one dive, a shark stalked the divers as they surfaced, likely to check them out as potential prey. While the shark was previously thought to be nearly blind, the behaviour showed it could see the divers.
   "That was the only time anyone felt threatened," said Gallant, regional director of Canada's Shark Research Institute. "The shark came up and saw that the divers were not seals and left them alone. The rest of the time, we tried to give it as much leeway as possible. "
   Along with better-than expected vision, the animals demonstrated they were curious.
   "I jumped off a dock where they said they'd seen one and within two minutes I was diving with a 10-foot (threemetre) shark," Gallant said. "They were coming to us."
   Some amateur divers have expressed concern that the Lower St. Lawrence may not be safe with the presence of a shark that can be more than six metres long and weigh up to 1,000 kilograms.
   Gallant said sharks, including the Greenland, rarely present a threat to people in Canada. Among other factors, cold water slows the shark and it tries to expend as little energy as possible.
   However, Gallant warned that rogue thrill-seeking divers should give the shark a wide berth.
   "If you jump in and try to grab it by the tail and go for a ride, you're going to get nipped," Gallant said.
   "Yes, this is something people actually do." Sylvain Sirois, a diver from Baie-Comeau, 420 kilometres northeast of Quebec City on the St. Lawrence, stumbled across the shark in May while completing a dive at about 20 metres below the surface.
   He said he was never worried about the giant shark.
   "It was shocking to see it but it really filled me with a feeling of wonder," Sirois said. "It's the first word that came to mind and it's the only word that works. Wonder."
   "We haven't seen them in a while, so we think they were just passing through," said Sirois, an instructor who also runs a diving shop. Gallant's team has found evidence that some Greenland sharks spend more time outside the Arctic Circle.

Jeffrey Gallant/ Aqualog.com A Greenland shark swims by frilled anemones off Baie-Comeau, Que.

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