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This article is part of the Research Topic

Future Directions in Research on Marine Megafauna

Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00087

Advancing research for the management of long-lived species: A case study on the Greenland shark

  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Canada
  • 2Department of Biological Sciences, Indiana University South Bend, United States
  • 3Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland, Iceland
  • 4Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
  • 5Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Fisheries and Marine Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
  • 6Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education & Research Group (GEERG), Canada
  • 7Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, Fisheries and Marine Institute, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
  • 8Arctic Aquatic Research Division, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canada), Canada
  • 9Department of Biology, Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada
  • 10Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada
  • 11Grønlands Naturinstitut, Greenland
  • 12Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, United States
  • 13Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 14Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Fullerton, United States
  • 15National Institute of Polar Research, Japan
  • 16Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada

Long-lived species share life history traits such as slow growth, late maturity, and low fecundity, which lead to slow recovery rates and increase a population’s vulnerability to disturbance. The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has recently been recognized as the world’s longest-lived vertebrate, but many questions regarding its biology, physiology, and ecology remain unanswered. Here we review how current and future research will fill knowledge gaps about the Greenland shark and provide an overall framework to guide research and management priorities for this species. Key advances include the potential for specialised ageing techniques and demographic studies to shed light on the distribution and age-class structure of Greenland shark populations. Advances in population genetics and genomics will reveal key factors contributing to the Greenland shark’s extreme longevity, range and population size, and susceptibility to environmental change. New tagging technologies and improvements in experimental and analytical design will allow detailed monitoring of movement behaviours and interactions among Greenland sharks and other marine species, while shedding light on habitat use and susceptibility to fisheries interactions. Interdisciplinary approaches, such as the combined use of stable isotope analysis and high-tech data-logging devices (i.e. accelerometers and acoustic hydrophones) have the potential to improve knowledge of feeding strategies, predatory capabilities, and the trophic role of Greenland sharks. Measures of physiology, including estimation of metabolic rate, as well as heart rate and function, will advance our understanding of the causes and consequences of long lifespans. Determining the extent and effects of current threats (as well as potential mitigation measures) will assist the development of policies, recommendations, and actions relevant for the management of this potentially vulnerable species. Through an interdisciplinary lens, we propose innovative approaches to direct the future study of Greenland sharks and promote the consideration of longevity as an important factor in research on aquatic and terrestrial predators.

Keywords: Future Directions, Longevity, Management, Somniosus microcephalus, Arctic ecosystem

Received: 14 Aug 2018; Accepted: 14 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Rob Harcourt, Macquarie University, Australia

Reviewed by:

Melinda G. Conners, Old Dominion University, United States
Heidi Dewar, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA), United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Edwards, Broell, Bushnell, Campana, Christiansen, Devine, Gallant, Grant, Hedges, Hiltz, MacNeil, McMeans, Nielsen, Præbel, Skomal, Steffensen, Walter, Watanabe, VanderZwaag and Hussey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Ms. Jena E. Edwards, University of Windsor, Department of Biological Sciences, Windsor, N9B 3P4, Ontario, Canada,