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Biology of the Greenland shark Somniosus microcephalus


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Greenland shark Somniosus microcephalus is a potentially important yet poorly studied cold-water species inhabiting the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Broad-scale changes in the Arctic ecosystem as a consequence of climate change have led to increased attention on trophic dynamics and the role of potential apex predators such as S. microcephalus in the structure of Arctic marine food webs. Although Nordic and Inuit populations have caught S. microcephalus for centuries, the species is of limited commercial interest among modern industrial fisheries. Here, the limited historical information available on S. microcephalus occurrence and ecology is reviewed and new catch, biological and life-history information from the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean region is provided. Given the considerable by-catch rates in high North Atlantic Ocean latitudes it is suggested that S. microcephalus is an abundant predator that plays an important, yet unrecognized, role in Arctic marine ecosystems. Slow growth and large pup sizes, however, may make S. microcephalus vulnerable to increased fishing pressure in a warming Arctic environment.