The Pacific Sleeper Shark is of the Somniosidae family of shark, which include the giant Greenland Shark. Commonly called “Sleeper Sharks” due to their slow swimming and non-aggressive natures, these sharks have a familiarly look. The Pacific Sleeper Shark is the smallest of the family group, reaching an average size of 3.5 meters (12 feet) while it’s other family members can and do grown well beyond that 7 meters (23 feet) in length! They boast a rounded snout and grey-black skin which is rough to the touch, they have an almost torpedo shape body with low dorsal fins.
Being deep swimmers, not much is known about these interesting sharks. It has been recorded though that they enjoy a diet of pacific octopus, sole, Pollock, flounder, tuna and teleost fish. This slow moving shark’s diet is generally determined on where it may find itself and the ease with which it can “catch” its dinner and so when available, will also feast on hermit crab, rockfish, marine snails, squid, pacific salmon and shrimp. The Pacific Sleeper is more a scavenger as opposed to a hunter; they are really slow swimmers, so unless their prey is slower than they are, or dead, they wouldn’t eat, despite having one of the most powerful bites of any shark ever studied! Also, because food sources are limited, they can store food for long periods of time, a little like having their very own on-board pantry.
Avoiding the light, the Pacific Sleeper Shark prefers to be found at some 2000 meter depths in colder waters throughout the planet, though quite agile for such a large sea creature, it is able to change depths by a cool 200 meters or so every hour! As you can well imagine, this makes them rather difficult to study, but on the other hand, it also keeps them relatively safe from destructive human behaviour.They are not big on hanging out together, and prefer being loners or in smaller groups, which bodes better for the scavenger nature and behaviour.Fear tells us that these sharks are a threat to us due to their sheer size, but logic tells us that they really aren’t, because there is so little shark and human interaction how can they be!? As no one really knows much about them, it is understandable that we don’t even have their numbers so they are not considered threatened or on any conservation watch list. Judge for yourselves whether this is a good or bad thing.
We would love to have you join us as we visit another member of the shark family in False Bay; the Great White Shark which breaches in False Bay, more than anywhere else on earth! Till we meet again, keep that toothy grin!
By Nadine Bentley