top of page

How long do Greenland sharks live?

Greenland shark

The Greenland shark is a fascinating species known for its mysterious nature and impressive longevity. In this article, we will explore various aspects of the Greenland shark's life, including its unique characteristics, habitat and distribution, feeding habits, reproduction and growth, and most notably, its exceptional lifespan. Join us as we delve into the intriguing world of the Greenland shark and uncover the secrets behind its remarkable longevity.

Key Takeaways

  • The Greenland shark is a species like no other, with a range of unique characteristics.

  • These sharks inhabit the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and Arctic regions.

  • Greenland sharks have a diverse diet that includes fish, seals, and even carrion.

  • Reproduction in Greenland sharks is a slow process, with females giving birth to a small number of pups every few years.

  • The Greenland shark holds the record for the longest known lifespan of any vertebrate, with some individuals living for over 400 years.

The Mysterious Greenland Shark

A Shark Like No Other

The Greenland shark is truly unique in many ways. It is a species that has adapted to survive in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean. With its sluggish and lethargic swimming style, it may not be the most graceful shark, but it certainly stands out from the rest.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Greenland shark is its size. It can grow to be one of the largest shark species, reaching lengths of up to 20 feet or more. This makes it a true giant of the deep, and a sight to behold.

Despite its impressive size, the Greenland shark is not known for its speed. In fact, it is one of the slowest swimming sharks in the world. Its sluggish nature is believed to be a result of its cold-water habitat and its unique physiology.

The Greenland shark is also known for its longevity. It is one of the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, with some individuals estimated to live for over 400 years. This incredible lifespan has fascinated scientists and researchers for years, and they are still uncovering the secrets of the Greenland shark's aging process.

Habitat and Distribution

The Greenland shark is a truly fascinating creature that can be found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is known to inhabit the deep waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, including Greenland, Iceland, and Canada. These sharks are well-adapted to survive in extreme conditions, with their bodies containing a high concentration of urea and trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) that act as antifreeze, allowing them to thrive in temperatures as low as -2°C.

These sharks are primarily bottom-dwellers, preferring to stay close to the ocean floor. They are often found at depths of 200 to 600 meters, but have been known to venture even deeper. Their slow swimming speed and sluggish nature make them well-suited for this type of habitat.

While the Greenland shark's distribution is mainly limited to the North Atlantic, there have been rare sightings of these sharks in other parts of the world, such as the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. However, these sightings are considered to be outliers, and the sharks' true range remains concentrated in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Feeding Habits

Greenland sharks have a unique feeding behavior that sets them apart from other shark species. They are known to be scavengers, feeding on a variety of prey including fish, seals, and even other sharks. Their diet is incredibly diverse, and they have been found with some unexpected items in their stomachs, such as polar bear remains and even car tires.

These sharks are opportunistic feeders, often relying on their sense of smell to locate potential food sources. They have a keen sense of smell and can detect the scent of prey from miles away. Once they find a food source, they use their powerful jaws and sharp teeth to tear apart their prey. Their teeth are designed for gripping and tearing rather than cutting, allowing them to consume larger prey items.

It is believed that Greenland sharks are slow-moving predators, relying on ambush tactics to catch their prey. They have been observed patiently waiting near the ocean floor for hours, waiting for an opportunity to strike. This patient hunting strategy allows them to conserve energy and maximize their chances of a successful meal.

In addition to their scavenging behavior, Greenland sharks are also known to engage in cannibalism. They have been observed feeding on smaller members of their own species, especially during times of food scarcity. This cannibalistic behavior may be a survival strategy to ensure their own survival when food resources are limited.

Overall, the feeding habits of Greenland sharks are fascinating and highlight their adaptability and resilience in the harsh Arctic environment.

Reproduction and Growth

Greenland sharks have a unique reproductive process. Unlike many other shark species, they do not lay eggs. Instead, female Greenland sharks give birth to live young. This is known as viviparity. The gestation period for Greenland sharks is estimated to be around 12 to 15 months, which is quite long compared to other shark species.

During the mating season, male Greenland sharks will often bite the female's pectoral fins as part of the courtship process. This behavior is believed to be a way for the male to assert dominance and secure mating rights. Once the female becomes pregnant, she will carry the developing embryos inside her body until they are ready to be born.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of offspring a female Greenland shark can have in a single pregnancy. However, it is believed that they can give birth to a large number of pups, possibly ranging from 10 to 20 or more.

Fun fact: The reproductive process of Greenland sharks is still not fully understood, and researchers continue to study these fascinating creatures to learn more about their unique biology.

Longevity and Aging

The Greenland shark is known for its remarkable longevity, with some individuals living for over 400 years. This makes it one of the longest-living vertebrates on Earth. Scientists have determined the age of these sharks by analyzing the crystalline proteins in their lenses, which accumulate over time. It's fascinating to think that these sharks have been swimming in the depths of the Arctic Ocean for centuries.

Researchers have also discovered that Greenland sharks have a slow growth rate, taking several decades to reach sexual maturity. This slow growth, combined with their long lifespan, suggests that these sharks have a unique life history strategy. They invest a lot of time and energy into growing and reproducing, which allows them to survive in the harsh Arctic environment.

In addition to their impressive lifespan, Greenland sharks exhibit signs of aging similar to other animals. As they get older, their bodies become more sluggish, and their metabolism slows down. It's like they're living in slow motion. Despite these age-related changes, these sharks are still able to thrive in their icy habitat.

Here are some key points about the longevity and aging of Greenland sharks:

  • Greenland sharks can live for over 400 years.

  • They have a slow growth rate and take several decades to reach sexual maturity.

  • As they age, their bodies become more sluggish, and their metabolism slows down.

  • Despite these age-related changes, they are still able to survive in the Arctic Ocean.


In conclusion, the Greenland shark is truly a shark like no other. Its mysterious nature, unique habitat and distribution, unusual feeding habits, and remarkable longevity make it a fascinating creature. Despite its slow growth rate and late maturity, the Greenland shark can live for hundreds of years, making it one of the longest-lived vertebrates on Earth. Further research is needed to fully understand the secrets of its long life. So next time you're diving in the icy waters of the Arctic, keep an eye out for the elusive Greenland shark!

The Mysterious Greenland Shark

How big do Greenland sharks grow?

Greenland sharks can grow up to 24 feet in length.

What is the habitat of Greenland sharks?

Greenland sharks are found in the cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans.

What do Greenland sharks eat?

Greenland sharks primarily feed on fish, seals, and other marine mammals.

How do Greenland sharks reproduce?

Greenland sharks have a slow reproductive rate and reach sexual maturity at around 150 years old.

How long do Greenland sharks live?

Greenland sharks are known to live for over 200 years, making them one of the longest-lived vertebrates on Earth.

How do Greenland sharks hunt?

Greenland sharks are ambush predators and use their sharp teeth to seize their prey.

Do Greenland sharks migrate?

There is evidence that Greenland sharks may undertake long-distance migrations.

Are Greenland sharks dangerous to humans?

Greenland sharks are not considered a threat to humans and rarely interact with them.


Build Awareness

bottom of page