Devanshi Kasana and her colleagues were puzzled when they discovered it: a large shark typically thought to live in the freezing Arctic – in the middle of a coral reef in Belize.
It was the first time a so-called Greenland shark, had been found in the waters of the Western Caribbean.
The shark, between 10 and 11 feet long, was found in the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, a coral atoll off the coast of Belize.
Kasana, a PhD candidate in Florida International University’s Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab, was working with a team of local Belizean fishermen tagging tiger sharks when they found the unusual visitor.
The final determination was that the shark was in the Sleeper shark family, and likely either a Greenland shark or a hybrid between the Greenland shark and the Pacific sleeper shark.
Greenland sharks are a mystery, with little known about the creatures, which tend to live more than 400 years.
In fact, they’re thought to be the longest-living vertebrates known to science.
But they’ve been typically known to scavenge on polar bear carcasses in a freezing habitat near the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans — not the Caribbean.
The result, Kasana and her team suggested, is that sleeper sharks “may be more common and widespread at depth in the tropics than available records indicate.”
“Great discoveries and conservation can happen when fishermen, scientists and the government work together,” said Beverly Wade, Director of the Blue Bond and Finance Permanence Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister of Belize. “We can really enhance what we can do individually, while also doing some great conservation work and making fantastic discoveries, like this one.”
Kasana published her findings in the journal Marine Biology
You can find her full article here.