Welcome to a blog now shared by one, two, um... four people. Wipe your shoes off on the mat and delve into the posts featuring rants, museum pictures, and some cool facts. Nerds of all kinds welcome.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Lethargic, Blind, Poisonous, Ravenous Greenland Sleeper

Bad Joke Sleeper Shark is the new meme.

That smiling blubber torpedo up there isn't some hastily photoshopped seal or missile with a face. No, my friends, that is the amiable Greenland sleeper shark, the laziest shark in the world. Known by many names, such as the Greenland shark, gurry shark, ground shark, and the Inuit Eqalussuaq, this species of sleeper is the great white shark of the Arctic, often longer but slightly lighter. Reaching a total of 24ft long and 3100lb is roughly the length of nineteen cocker spaniels and the weight of 442 pomeranians.  Just so you get a grip on the size:

You see the kid looking in its mouth? That is the look of a kid who has been to Vietnam to back and just doesn't give a crap.

And now we delve into more facts. The Greenland sleeper is surely the northernmost species of sharks, cruising along at a speed demon rate of 0.34m per second, which translates to about... 0.765mph. In fact, the Greenland sleeper is so slow, it has to sneak up on seals in their sleep. Meanwhile, great whites are out there ramming into seals and launching themselves out of the water at more than 40mph. All in all, the Greenland sleeper is the ocean's stoner, the reason being that unlike the salmon shark, they cannot regulate their own body temperature. But still, oceanic druggie.

These colours, man...

Do you want to know just how chill this slow-moving, giant, Arctic shark is? Say hello to Ommatokoita elongata:

What is this, besides what looks like a facehugger from Alien had it been made in the 50s. Its a copepod (Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants is one too) with a fondness for parasitism. The female copepod attaches onto the eyes of Greenland sleepers and their relative, the Pacific sleeper; the main reason being (besides nightmares) that sharks' skin is covered in denticles, making it tough to get a grip. The copepod grazes on the surface of the cornea, slowly ebbing away at it, slowly blinding it. Luckily for the shark, it barely needs its eyes anyways, and while not benefited from the relationship, is pretty much unharmed. Just try not to think of these copepods attaching to your eyes (they won't anyways, but it sounds like a totally rad B-movie plot).

 *cue woman scream*

So we've covered how slow they are and how chill they are, but what does a Greenland shark eat? Well, they have a hankerin' for mostly fish. Skates, eels, lumpfish, wolffish, flounders, sculpins, capelin, herring, and chars, even other sharks, make up the bulk of its diet. And yet, much like the similarly-sized great whites and tiger sharks, it adds a little zest to its diet with some pretty big animals. Not only seals, but porpoises, caribou, horses, and polar bears. For a shark that can't even break 2mph, it sure can hunt down some prey. Of course, some of this could be carrion, but its jaw-dropping to think of. And they do it all with a set of chompers like this.



And while you may be thinking of going out and spearing a Greenland shark to avenge all the cute little caribou, the fluffy bears, and pretty horses killed by it and then eating its corpse, you may want to slow down there, buster. Greenland sleeper flesh is poisonous. Unusually high concentrations of urea (its in your urine, stop giggling) and trimethylamine oxide, a protein stabiliser for the shark. The effect of eating its fresh flesh (no rhyme intended) is symptoms similar to extreme drunkenness and intoxication; sled dogs that eat it can't even stand for a while. The flesh has to be boiled in several changes of water, or go through periods of drying and fermentation for months. The end result is a Greenlandic/Icelandic delicacy, known as hakarl.

Bon apetit.


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