Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 493–504 | Cite as

Juvenile Greenland sharks Somniosus microcephalus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) in the Canadian Arctic

  • Nigel E. HusseyEmail author
  • Aurelie Cosandey-Godin
  • Ryan P. Walter
  • Kevin J. Hedges
  • Melanie VanGerwen-Toyne
  • Amanda N. Barkley
  • Steven T. Kessel
  • Aaron T. Fisk
Original Paper


Life-stage-based management of marine fishes requires information on juvenile habitat preferences to ensure sustainable population demographics. This is especially important in the Arctic region given very little is known about the life histories of many native species, yet exploitation by developing commercial and artisanal fisheries is increasing as the ice extent decreases. Through scientific surveys and bycatch data from gillnet fisheries, we document captures of rarely reported juvenile Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus; ≤200 cm total length [TL]) during the ice-free period in the Canadian Arctic. A total of 22 juvenile animals (42 % of total catch; n = 54), including the smallest reliably measured individual of 117 cm TL, were caught on scientific longlines and bottom trawls in Scott Inlet and Sam Ford Trough over three consecutive years. Molecular genetic nuclear markers confirmed species identity for 44 of these sharks sampled; however, two sharks including a juvenile of 150 cm TL were identified as carrying a Pacific sleeper shark (Somniosus pacificus) mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) haplotype. This represents the first record of a Pacific sleeper shark genetic signature in Greenland sharks in Eastern Arctic waters. Juvenile sharks caught as bycatch in gillnet fisheries were only observed offshore in Baffin Bay surrounding a fishery closure area, while larger subadult and mature Greenland sharks (>200 cm TL) were caught in all fishing locations, including areas where juveniles were observed. The repeatable occurrence of juvenile Greenland sharks in a fjord and their presence at two offshore sites indicates that these smaller animals either reside in nurseries or have defined home ranges in both coastal and offshore regions or undertake large-scale inshore–offshore movements.


Greenland shark Pacific sleeper shark Nursery grounds Juvenile sharks Genetics Scott Inlet Sam Ford Trough Baffin Bay 



This research was supported by Government of Nunavut funding to N.E.H., K.J.H. and A.T.F. and Ocean Tracking Network and Canada Research Chair funding to A.T.F. A.G. was supported by an NSERC Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship and funding from WWF-Canada. We thank the crew of the Nuliajuk and the Government of Nunavut for logistical support in the field to undertake fishing. S.M. Rusyaev is thanked for providing the capture locations of small Greenland sharks in the Barents Sea.


  1. Beck B, Mansfield AW (1969) Observations on the Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus, in Northern Baffin Island. J Fish Res Board Can 26:143–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck MW, Heck KL, Able KW, Childers DL, Eggleston DB, Gillanders BM, Halpern B, Hays CG, Hoshino K, Minello TJ, Orth RJ, Sheridan PF, Weinstein MP (2001) The identification, conservation and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Bioscience 51:633–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benz GW, Hoffmayer ER, Driggers WB, Allen D, Bishop LE, Brown DA (2007) First record of a sleeper shark in the western Gulf of Mexico and comments on taxonomic uncertainty within Somniosus (Somniosus). B Mar Sci 80:343–351Google Scholar
  4. Bigelow HB, Schroeder WC (1948) Sharks. In: Tee-Van J, Breder CM, Hildebrand SF, Parr AE, Schroeder WC (eds) Fishes of the North Atlantic, part 1. Yale University, Sears Foundation for Marine Research, Connecticut, pp 59–546Google Scholar
  5. Bjerkan P (1944) Håkjerringens forplantning. Naturen, BergenGoogle Scholar
  6. Campana SE, Fisk AT, Klimley AP (2014) Movements of Arctic and northwest Atlantic Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) monitored with archival satellite pop-up tags suggest long-range migrations. Deep Sea Res Part II. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.11.001 Google Scholar
  7. Christiansen JS, Mecklenburg CW, Karamushko OV (2014) Arctic marine fishes and their fisheries in light of global change. Glob Change Biol 20:352–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clement M, Posada D, Crandall KA (2000) TCS: a computer program to estimate gene genealogies. Mol Ecol 9:1657–1659CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Conrath CL, Musick JA (2007) The sandbar shark summer nursery within bays and lagoons of the eastern shore of Virginia. T Am Fish Soc 136:999–1007CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conrath CL, Musick JA (2010) Residency, space use and movement patterns of juvenile sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) within a Virginia summer nursery area. Mar Freshw Res 61:223–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cortés E (2000) Life history patterns and correlations in sharks. Rev Fish Sci 8:299–344Google Scholar
  12. Cosandey-Godin A, Krainski ET, Worm B, Mills Flemming J (2014) Applying Bayesian spatio-temporal models to fish bycatch in the Canadian Arctic. Can J Fish Aquat Sci. doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2014-0159
  13. Davis B, VanderZwaag DL, Cosandey-Godin A, Hussey NE, Kessel ST, Worm B (2013) The conservation of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus): setting scientific, law, and policy coordinates for avoiding a species at risk. J Int Wildl Law Policy 16:300–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeAngelis BM, McCandless CT, Kohler NE, Recksiek CW, Skomal GB (2008) First characterization of shark nursery habitat in the United States Virgin Islands: evidence of habitat partitioning by two shark species. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 358:257–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dennard ST, MacNeil MA, Treble MA, Campana S, Fisk AT (2010) Hierarchical analysis of a remote, Arctic, artisanal longline fishery. ICES J Mar Sci 67:41–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. DFO (2007) Development of a closed area in NAFO 0A to protect Narwhal Over-Wintering Grounds, including Deep-sea CoralsGoogle Scholar
  17. DFO (2014) Integrated fisheries management plan Greenland Halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Subarea 0 (Effective 2014)Google Scholar
  18. Dibattista JD, Feldheim KA, Gruber SH, Hendry AP (2007) When bigger is not better: selection against large size, high condition and fast growth in juvenile lemon sharks. J Evol Biol 20:201–212CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Driggers WB III, Ingram GW Jr, Grace MA, Gledhill CT, Henwood TA, Horton CN, Jones CM (2008) Pupping areas and mortality rates of young tiger sharks Galeocerdo cuvier in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Aquatic Biol 2:161–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dulvy NK, Fowler SL, Musick JA, Cavanagh RD, Kyne PM, Harrison LR, Carlson JK, Davidson LNK, Fordham SV, Francis MP, Pollock CM, Simpfendorfer CA, Burgess GH, Carpenter KE, Compagno LJV, Ebert DA, Gibson C, Heupel MR, Livingstone SR, Sanciangco JC, Stevens, JD, Valenti S, White WT (2014) Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. eLife 3:e00590Google Scholar
  21. Duncan KM, Holland KN (2006) Habitat use, growth rates and dispersal patterns of juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks Sphyrna lewini in a nursery habitat. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 312:211–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ebert DA, Compagno LJV, Natanson LJ (1987) Biological notes on the Pacific sleeper shark, Somniosus pacificus (Chondrichthyes: Squalidae). Calif Fish Game 73:117–123Google Scholar
  23. FAO (2014) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FISHSTAT Global Capture Production Dataset (Latest update: 10 Jan 2014). Accessed 7 Aug 2014
  24. Feldheim KA, Gruber SH, Ashley MV (2002) The breeding biology of lemon sharks at a tropical nursery lagoon. Proc R Soc B-Biol Sci 269:1655–1661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feldheim KA, Gruber SH, DiBattista JD, Babcock EA, Kessel ST, Hendry AP, Pikitch EK, Ashley MV, Champan DD (2014) Two decades of genetic profiling yields first evidence of natal philopatry and long-term fidelity to parturition sites in sharks. Mol Ecol 23:110–117CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Fennessy ST (1994) Incidental capture of elasmobranchs by commercial prawn trawlers on the Tugela Bank, Natal, South Africa. S Afr J Mar Sci 14:287–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fisk AT, Tittlemler SA, Pranschke JL, Norstrom RJ (2002) Using anthropogenic contaminants and stable isotopes to assess the feeding ecology of Greenland sharks. Ecology 83:2162–2172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fisk AT, Lyderson C, Kovacs KM (2012) Archival pop-off tag tracking of Greenland sharks Somniosus microcephalus in the high Arctic waters of Svalbard, Norway. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 468:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Francis MP, Stevens JD, Last PR (1988) New records of Somniosus (Elasmobranchii: Squalidae) from Australasia, with comments on the taxonomy of the genus. N Z J Mar Freshw Res 22:401–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hansen P (1963) Tagging experiments with the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus (Bloch and Schneider)) in subarea 1. Int Comm Northwest Atl Fish Spec Publ 4:172–175Google Scholar
  31. Heupel MR, Hueter RE (2002) Importance of prey density in relation to the movement patterns of juvenile blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) within a coastal nursery area. Mar Freshw Res 53:543–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heupel MR, Simpfendorfer CA (2002) Estimation of mortality of juvenile blacktip sharks, Carcharhinus limbatus, within a nursery area using telemetry data. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 59:624–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Heupel MR, Carlson JK, Simpfendorfer CA (2007) Shark nursery areas: concepts, definition, characterization and assumptions. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 337:287–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hueter RE, Heupel MR, Heist EJ, Keeney DB (2004) Evidence of philopatry in sharks and implications for the management of shark fisheries. J Northwest Atl Fish Sci 35:239–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hussey NE, McCarthy ID, Dudley SFJ, Mann BQ (2009) Nursery grounds, movement patterns and growth rates of dusky sharks, Carcharhinus obscurus: a long-term tag and release study in South African waters. Mar Freshw Res 60:571–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hussey NE, MacNeil MA, McMeans BC, Olin JA, Dudley SFJ, Cliff G, Wintner SP, Fennessy ST, Fisk AT (2014) Rescaling the trophic structure of marine food webs. Ecol Lett 17:239–250CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Iglésias SP, Lecointre G, Sellos DY (2005) Extensive paraphyllis within sharks of the order Carcharhiniformes inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial genes. Mol Phylogenet Evol 34:569–583CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Jensen AS (1914) The selachians of Greenland. B. Lunos Bogtrykkeri, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  39. Jensen AS (1948) Contribution to the ichthyofauna of Greenland 8–24. Skrifter udgivet af Universitets Zoologiske Museum, KA, Benhavn 9, 1–182Google Scholar
  40. Klimley AP (1987) The determinants of sexual segregation in the scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini. Environ Biol Fish 18:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Koefoed E (1957) Notes of the Greenland shark Acanthorhinus carcharias (Gunn). 2. A uterine foetus and the uterus from a Greenland shark. Rep Nor Fish Mar Investig 11:8–12Google Scholar
  42. Kondyurin V, Myagkov N (1983) Catches of newborn Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus (Bloch and Schneider)(Dalatiidae). J Ichthyol 23:140–141Google Scholar
  43. Kukuev EI, Trunov IA (2002) The composition of ichthyofauna of the meso- and bathypelagic zones of the Irminger current and of adjacent waters. J Ichthyol 42:377–384Google Scholar
  44. Leclerc L, Lyderson C, Haug T, Bachmann L, Fisk AT, Kovacs KM (2012) A missing piece in the Arctic food web puzzle? Stomach contents of Greenland sharks sampled in Svalbard, Norway. Polar Biol 35:1197–1208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lynghammar A, Christiansen JS, Mecklenburg CW, Karamushko OV, Moller PR, Gallucci VF (2013) Species richness and distribution of chondrichthyan fishes in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. Biodiversity 14:57–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. MacNeil MA, McMeans BC, Hussey NE, Vecsei P, Svavarsson J, Kovacs KM, Lydersen C, Treble MA, Skomal GB, Ramsey M, Fisk AT (2012) Biology of the Greenland shark Somniosus microcephalus. J Fish Biol 80:991–1018CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. McKinney MA, McMeans BC, Tomy GT, Rosenberg B, Ferguson SH, Morris A, Muir DCG, Fisk AT (2012) Transfer of persistent organic pollutants in a changing Arctic. Environ Sci Technol 46:9914–9922CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. McMeans BC, Arts MT, Lydersen C, Kovacs KM, Hop H, Falk-Peterson S, Fisk AT (2013) The role of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in an Arctic ecosystem assessed via stable isotopes and fatty acids. Mar Biol 160:1223–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Montealegre-Quijano S, Vooren CM (2010) Distribution and abundance of the life stages of the blue shark Prionace glauca in the Southwest Atlantic. Fish Res 101:168–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Morrissey JF, Gruber SH (1993a) Habitat selection by juvenile lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris. Environ Biol Fish 38:311–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morrissey JF, Gruber SH (1993b) Home range of juvenile lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris. Copeia 425–434Google Scholar
  52. Murray BW, Wang JY, Yang SC, Stevens JD, Fisk AT, Svavarsson J (2008) Mitochondrial cytochrome b variation in sleeper sharks (Squaliformes:Somniosidae). Mar Biol 153:1015–1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nielsen J, Hedeholm RB, Simon M, Steffensen JF (2014) Distribution and feeding ecology of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) in Greenland waters. Polar Biol 37:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pank M, Stanhope M, Natanson LJ, Kohler N, Shivji M (2001) Rapid and simultaneous identification of body parts from the morphologically similar sharks Carcharhinus obscurus and Carcharhinus plumbeus (Carcharhinidae) using multiplex PCR. Mar Biotech 3:231–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Peklova I, Hussey NE, Hedges KJ, Treble MA, Fisk AT (2012) Depth and temperature preferences of the deepwater flatfish Greenland halibut Reinhardtius hippoglossoides in an Arctic marine ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 467:193–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. R Core Team (2013). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  57. Reyier EA, Adams DH, Lowers RH (2008) First evidence of a high density nursery ground for the lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris, near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Fla Sci 71:134–148Google Scholar
  58. Reyier EA, Franks BR, Chapman DD, Scheidt DM, Stolen ED, Gruber SH (2014) Regional-scale migrations and habitat use of juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) in the US South Atlantic. PLoS ONE 9:e88470CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Rusyaev SM, Orlov AM (2013) Bycatches of the Greenland shark Somniosus microcephalus (Squaliformes, Chondrichthyes) in the Barents sea and adjacent waters under bottom trawling data. J Ichthyol 53:111–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Semba Y, Aoki I, Yokawa K (2011) Size at maturity and reproductive traits of shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, in the western and central North Pacific. Mar Freshw Res 62:20–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Skomal GB, Benz GW (2004) Ultrasonic tracking of Greenland sharks, Somniosus microcephalus, under Arctic ice. Mar Biol 145:489–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tsai WP, Liu KM, Joung SJ (2010) Demographic analysis of the pelagic thresher shark, Alopias pelagicus, in the north-western Pacific using a stochastic stage-based model. Mar Freshw Res 61:1056–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Yano K, Stevens JD, Compagno LJV (2007) Distribution, reproduction and feeding of the Greenland shark Somniosus (Somniosus) microcephalus, with notes on two other sleeper sharks, Somniosus (Somniosus) pacificus and Somniosus (Somniosus) antarcticus. J Fish Biol 70:374–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zeller D, Booth S, Pakhomov E, Swartz W, Pauly D (2011) Arctic fisheries catches in Russia, USA, and Canada: baselines for neglected ecosystem. Polar Biol 34:955–973CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nigel E. Hussey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aurelie Cosandey-Godin
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ryan P. Walter
    • 1
  • Kevin J. Hedges
    • 4
  • Melanie VanGerwen-Toyne
    • 4
  • Amanda N. Barkley
    • 1
  • Steven T. Kessel
    • 1
  • Aaron T. Fisk
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.WWF-CanadaHalifaxCanada
  4. 4.Arctic Aquatic Research DivisionFisheries and Oceans CanadaWinnipegCanada

Personalised recommendations