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Fish #07 Greenland Shark Somniosus microcephalus ~ Margot Ravenscroft
Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm
The Greenland shark, Somniosus microcephalus, is also known as the gurry shark, grey shark, sleeper shark, or by the Inuit name Eqalussuaq.
They are big: The second largest carnivorous shark after the great white, it lives in deep Arctic waters.
Long lived: Possibly living for over 200 years, they have the longest lifespan of any know vertebrate.
They like it cold: A true sub-Arctic shark tolerating Arctic temperatures all year round. Generally found in very cold waters (-1°C to 10°C).
They go deep: Observed down to 2,200 metres deep.
In the eye: Arctic Greenland sharks are commonly parasitized by the copepod Ommatokoita elongata. This parasite latches on to the shark's eye and destroys the corneal tissue, this makes the shark practically blind.
Eating anything: An opportunistic predator that will eat just about any meat it finds, either dead or alive.
Poisonous but edible: The natural anti-freeze found the shark, trimethylamine oxide (also regulates their osmotic pressure). During digestion, TMAO breaks down into trimethylamine (TMA). For people eating this shark the TMA causes intestinal distress and neurological effects similar to extreme drunkenness, and is deadly in large quantities. Early settlers of Iceland and Greenland figured out a way around this; burying the meat in the ground for 6 to 12 weeks, exposing it to several cycles of freezing and thawing. The meat is then hung up to dry for several months, served in small cubes the end product, Hákarl, is considered a delicacy.
About the artist: Margot is a Human Rights Lawyer who runs the international fair trials charity, Amicus. She lives in Hampshire with her two children.
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