Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Somniosus microcephalus, Greenland Shark, Large Sleeper Shark

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heavy body
D1 insertion nearer pelvics than pectorals
tail base: no keels
lower teeth: low, broad, oblique cusps
tooth rows: top 35-39, bottom 45-57

Somniosus microcephalus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

Greenland Shark, Large Sleeper Shark

Body cylindrical, heavy; head short (snout to pectorals 23% TL); snout short, rounded, without barbels; eyes on side of head, without nictitating membranes; spiracles large, just behind eyes; mouth short, nearly transverse; top teeth narrow, needle-like, with a single cusp, non-overlapping, 35-39 rows; bottom teeth blades, overlapping, with low, broad, strongly oblique cusps, 45-57 rows; gill slits 5, all before pectoral fin; 2 dorsal fins without spines, equal sized, low; origin of 1st dorsal in middle of back, insertion slightly closer to pelvics than to pectorals; no anal fin; pelvic fins ~equal to or larger than 2nd dorsal; tail base short (distance between 2nd dorsal base and upper tail fin origin < 2X 2nd dorsal fin base); tail fin strongly asymmetrical, paddle shaped, lower lobe long, moderately large; no keels before base of tail fin; flank denticles with erect narrow crowns and hooked points.

Mid-grey to brown; sometimes with dark bars & small light and dark spots and blotches.

Reaches 640 cm, possibly 730 cm.

Depth range 0 - 2992 m.


North Atlantic; Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Note: recent records off Belize and Colombia likely are this species.

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  • Brackish
  • Marine
  • In & Offshore
  • Inshore
  • Offshore
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Bottom + water column
  • Near Bottom
  • Rocks
  • Water column
  • Reef (rock/coral/oyster)
  • Reef and soft bottom
  • Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom)
FishBase Habitat
  • Bentho-Pelagic
  • Reef Associated
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Sharks/rays
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
  • Mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
  • Pelagic jellyfish/ctenophores
  • Sea snakes/mammals/turtles/birds
  • Sea-stars/cucumbers/urchins
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Live birth
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
  • Transatlantic (East+West Atlantic)
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent only
  • Extends North of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
IUCN Red List
  • Listed
  • Near threatened
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 640
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 2992