With an estimated lifespan of up to 500 years, Greenland sharks are considered the longest-living vertebrates on Earth. They are native to frigid Arctic waters, where they like to feed on polar bear carcasses. But at least one has also ventured to the western Caribbean, and it surprised a boatload of researchers. Devanshi Kasana—a PhD candidate at Florida International University, per WFLA—was working with local fishermen to tag tiger sharks off the coast of Belize. They were about to call it a day, but when they checked their lines one last time, there was a surprise.
"I knew it was something unusual and so did the fishers, who hadn't ever seen anything quite like it in all their combined years of fishing," Kasana said in a news release. She described it as ancient-looking, with a blunt snout and pale blue eyes. Hector Daniel Martinez, a research assistant who shot video of the event, said he stepped back when the creature surfaced "because it looked scary, it was nothing I’d ever seen before." Experts determined it was mostly likely a Greenland shark, a slow-moving, slow-growing type of sleeper shark, according to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, which is overseeing the research project. News of the find has been published in Marine Biology.
The sharks can live for centuries, but scientists still don’t know much about them. "Nothing can be definitively ruled out about the species ... Greenland sharks could possibly be trolling the depths of the ocean all across the world," say scientists at Mote, via Fox 4. The shark was caught near Glover's Reef Atoll, where a steep slope drops to a depth of 9,500 feet, which would provide the "cold water needed for a Greenland shark to thrive," per Phys.org, Why it was drawn to the warm surface remains a mystery, but the shark now has a satellite tag, so researchers hope to learn more in the future. (Read more sharks stories.)