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Mysteries of the Deep

a fish swimming under water

A mysterious shark that is typically found in the waters of the Arctic Ocean was spotted on a coral reef in Belize this summer. The shark was discovered by researcher Devanshi Kasana, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University, who was in Belize tagging tiger sharks as part of a long-term shark and ray monitoring project.

After conferring with several Greenland shark experts, the final determination was it was definitely in the sleeper shark family — and because of its large size most likely a Greenland shark or a hybrid between the Greenland shark and Pacific sleeper shark.

Greenland sharks remain somewhat of a mystery to science. What is known about them is they tend to be seen in the frigid waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. The slow-moving species is also slow growing. Yet, a life in the slow lane may benefit them, because they have been estimated to live upward of 500 years — earning them the special designation of longest-living vertebrate known to science.

diagram

The discovery marks the first time a shark like this was found in western Caribbean waters off the barrier reef of Belize.  Perhaps this little studied species has a greater range than just the Arctic and can live at depths around the world where temperatures are much cooler or perhaps this sole shark was an outlier.  The discovery creates more questions than answers.  There is still so much we don’t know about the ocean and the amazing creatures that call it home.  There is something wonderous in the unknown… it begs the question… what other mysteries does the ocean hold??