Shark thought to exist only in the Arctic found in Caribbean, researchers say

Greenland sharks can live for more than 500 years. One was discovered off coast in Belize

Stock image. Taryn Elliott (Pexels)

Greenland sharks are thought by scientists to be the longest-living vertebrates on the planet predominantly exist only in the frigid waters of the Arctic region and Arctic Ocean.

So, what on Earth was a Greenland shark doing swimming in the western Caribbean Sea?

That is what researchers are still scratching their heads over after pulling in a Greenland shark in April off a coast in Belize, according to a July article in Marine Biology.

The researchers were on the southern coast of Belize tagging tiger sharks, when they hauled in a Greenland shark that was described as having black, pale-looking skin and blue eyes.

It was quite a discovery in tropical waters to bring in a Greenland shark, which can live for more than 500 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Greenland sharks have a slow speed of life, growing 1/3 of an inch per year and not reaching sexual maturity until they are more than 100 years old, according to researchers cited in an NPR article.

Devanshi Kasana, a Ph.D. candidate at the Florida International University Predator Ecology and Conservation lab who was among the researchers who discovered the Greenland shark in Belize, said in the NPR article that Greenland sharks have been discovered as far south as off the coast of Georgia, but that it was in way deeper water.

If Greenland sharks swim closer to the equator, they typically are more than 7,000 feet down in the water, according to the NOAA.

It wasn’t nearly that deep in Belize, with depths ranging from 25 to 2,000 feet, which made the catch so surprising, Kasana said in the NPR article.

When it was caught, the shark was measured and had its photo taken before being released back in the water.

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Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.