Greenland sharks, the oldest living vertebrates on Earth, are one of the most mysterious creatures on the planet.
These majestic animals are native to the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic, and can live to be more than 500 years old.
But despite their long lives, Greenland sharks are notoriously elusive.
Now, scientists from the Memorial University of Newfoundland have captured stunning footage of Greenland sharks in their natural habitat.
In an article for The Conversation, research scientists Brynn Devine and Jonathan Dempsey explain how they captured the footage and what it means for understanding these unique creatures.iPhone transfer software
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For scientists like us, the observation and monitoring of marine species can be challenging under the best of circumstances.
But sampling at extreme depths and in seasonally ice-covered waters is especially difficult.
However, we recently captured some of the first underwater video footage of Greenland sharks in the Canadian Arctic.
The recordings gave us valuable insight into their abundance, size and behaviour, as well as their distribution in the Canadian Arctic.
These findings are the first step towards closing a major knowledge gap on the population status of the Greenland shark.
Greenland sharks are incredibly hard to find and even harder to study. Incredible footage from a research programme has seen nearly 150 of the mysterious animals in the Canadian arctic
Recently captured footage shows some of the first underwater video footage of Greenland sharks in the Canadian Arctic. These rare animals do not reproduce until they are 150 years old
Until now, most of what we knew about Greenland sharks came from the historical records of commercial landings.
They were fished in the North Atlantic for their oily livers until 1960.
A limited harvest still occurs in Greenland, and the species is sometimes encountered as bycatch in fisheries that occur within its geographical range.
But in areas of the North Atlantic and Arctic where commercial fishing has not historically occurred — such as the waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago — their full geographic range has remained unknown.
The research was conduction within the region of Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), which could become Canada's largest marine protected areas
Until now, most of what we knew about Greenland sharks came from the historical records of commercial landings. They were fished in the North Atlantic for their oily livers until 1960
Due to their sluggish and seemingly lethargic behaviour, the Greenland shark is part of the family of 'sleeper sharks'. Despite being remarkably slow swimmers and effectively blind, thanks to eye parasites, the Greenland shark is one of the Arctic's top predators
Massive slow-moving predators that dwell in the cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans are said to be the longest-living vertebrates on Earth, with one especially ancient individual estimated to be as much as 512 years old.
Recent research found that Greenland sharks can live upwards of 500 years, and don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re around 150.
But, for these remarkable creatures, longevity may come at a cost.
The species is often plagued by worm-like parasites that latch onto their eyes – and, these sharks have been known to enjoy an occasional meal of rotting polar bear carcass.
In a study published this summer, researchers used traces of carbon-14 produced by nuclear tests in the 1950s to determine the age of Greenland sharks, by examining lens crystallines in their eyes.
The largest was estimated to be about 392 years old.
But, given some uncertainty in the method, it could be anywhere from 272 to 512 years old.
Even at the lowest estimates, however, the researchers say the Greenland sharks are Earth's longest-living vertebrates.
Despite their amazing lifespan and elusive nature, accidentally catching one of these sharks is sometimes considered the equivalent of ‘stepping in dog poop,’ a biologist told The New Yorker.
Greenland sharks are bizarre-looking creatures, with ghostly eyes and ever-gaping mouths.
And, while seal are known to be among their most important prey items, these sharks also sometimes chow down on what experts have dubbed ‘polar bear steak.’
In September, Danish marine biologist Julius Nielsen, who led the