Moose-Eating Shark: Canadian Bystanders Save Greenland Shark That Bit Off More Than It Could Chew

By Josh Lieberman on November 22, 2013 4:55 PM EST

Moose-eating shark
A Greenland shark tried to eat a moose carcass last weekend. Two bystanders yanked the moose hide from the shark, which may have been choking on it. (Photo: Twitter: cliffyharv)

Two men in Canada, stopped a shark from devouring a moose carcass last week. (You read that right.) Derrick Chaulk was driving along the harbor of Norris Arm North, Newfoundland, on Saturday when he thought he saw a beached whale. He took a closer look, and it turned out to be a Greenland whale--itself a rare sight--chomping on a bit of moose.     

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"He swallowed and got it halfway down and couldn't cough it back up and couldn't get it all down, and then I think the tide brought him in," Chaulk told the CBC. 

Along with Jeremy Ball, another local man who wandered over, Chaulk began trying to wrest the moose chunk out of the mouth of the shark. Chaulk said that he and Ball yanked on the moose hide a couple of times, finally pulling it out. The two men tied a rope around the shark's tail and got it back into the water, whereupon the Greenland shark swam off into the sunset (or, more accurately, into the deep, cold water it lives in).   

Chaulk told the CBC that the moose carcass may have come from a nearby piece of land where hunters clean moose, sometimes throwing their remains into the water. 

It's somewhat uncommon to see a Greenland shark near the surface, as they stay in waters at depths of at least 591 feet; they've even been spotted as low as 7,218 feet. But they are noticeable creatures if they're around: Greenland sharks are humongous, averaging from eight to 14 feet, with a maximum length of 21 feet. (Chaulk estimated that the shark he rescued from choking on the moose was over eight feet long.)

While Greenland sharks have been known to eat sleeping seals, they don't often attack humans. That isn't necessarily because the sharks don't want to feast on delicious humans, but because they live at such great depths.

The most interesting and/or horrifying thing about Greenland sharks is that the copepod Ommatokoita elongata constantly feasts on the sharks' corneas, leading to impaired vision and partial blindness. Despite Greenland sharks' eyes being constantly eaten by parasites, they don't seem to mind, as the sharks don't require keen vision as they go about their day eating seals and moose. There's even speculation that the Ommatokoita elongata copepod is not actually a parasite to the shark but a mutualistic organism: the copepod may be bioluminescent, attracting prey towards the shark. 

Moose, seals, eye-eating parasites: the Greenland shark actually leads a pretty interesting life. 

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