The Greenland shark makes its home in the icy arctic waters around Greenland and Iceland. So researchers were shocked when they found one of the ocean giants apparently taking a tropical vacation in the coral reefs off the coast of Belize.
This is the first time a Greenland shark has been spotted in the western Caribbean, off the world’s second longest barrier reef, according to a press release from Florida International University (FIU).
Devanshi Kasana, a Ph.D. student at FIU, was working with Belizean fishermen to tag tiger sharks when she noticed that one shark attached to one of their lines didn’t look like a tiger shark.
She sent a photo of the large, sluggish creature to her adviser, who confirmed it was either a Greenland shark or a hybrid between the Greenland shark and Pacific sleeper shark, according to FIU.
One of the fishermen on the project expressed shock at the discovery.
“I am always excited to set my deep water line because I know there is stuff down there that we haven’t seen yet in Belize, but I never thought I would be catching a Greenland shark,” Omar Faux, one of the Belize fisherman, said in the FIU release.
Greenland sharks are the world’s longest-living vertebrate on Earth, capable of living up at least 400 years, according to a 2016 study. But there is still lots left to learn about the mysterious fish. The slow-moving, slow-growing species can reach up to 23 feet long and weigh up to 1.5 tons, according to National Geographic. Because the sharks prefer incredibly cold, deep waters, they are difficult for scientists to monitor.
FIU suggested that there could be more Greenland sharks in tropical waters all over the world—just very far below the surface, where the water is as cold as they prefer.