Polar Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 37–46 | Cite as

Distribution and feeding ecology of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) in Greenland waters

  • Julius Nielsen
  • Rasmus B. Hedeholm
  • Malene Simon
  • John F. Steffensen
Original Paper


Greenland sharks are widely distributed and most likely a highly abundant predator in arctic waters. Greenland sharks have previously been considered scavengers, but recent studies suggest that Greenland sharks also predate on live prey. In this study, distribution and feeding ecology in Greenland waters were investigated. Based on data from 25 years of surveys, Greenland sharks were usually caught at 400–700 m but were found at all depths between 100 and 1,200 m. Based on examination of stomachs from 30 Greenland sharks (total length of 258–460 cm), the most important prey items were Atlantic cod (65.6 % IRI), harp seal (9.9 % IRI), skates (5.2 % IRI) and wolffish (4.4 % IRI), but large geographical variations were observed. Prey composition and qualitative observations support the hypothesis of active predation. Consistent with other studies, the results of this work support the notion that the Greenland shark is an apex predator with the potential to influence trophic dynamics in the Arctic.


Greenland shark Feeding ecology Distribution Arctic Body metrics 



This study was financially supported by the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland (KVUG), the Natural Science Research Institute in Nuuk, Greenland, the Danish Center for Marine Research by providing RV Dana for a Greenland Shark Cruise to eastern Greenland and Save our Seas Foundation. We are grateful for the help of the crew, biologists and student workers on board RVs Dana, Pâmiut and Sanna during sampling. Special thanks to Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid for advice with marine mammal identification and thanks to Inge Bødker for identification of fish bones at Natural History Museum of Denmark. Comments on an earlier version of the manuscript from three anonymous reviewers are greatly appreciated. Permission to collect Greenland sharks was obtained from the Greenland Government. M. Simon was funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julius Nielsen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Rasmus B. Hedeholm
    • 2
  • Malene Simon
    • 3
  • John F. Steffensen
    • 4
  1. 1.DTU Aqua—National Institute of Aquatic ResourcesTechnical University of DenmarkCharlottenlundDenmark
  2. 2.Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  3. 3.Greenland Climate Research CentreGreenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  4. 4.Marine Biological SectionUniversity of CopenhagenHelsingørDenmark

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