7 Sharks that Live in Frigid Arctic Waters

Written by Brandi Allred
Updated: January 23, 2023
© Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com
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Like snakes and lizards, fish, including sharks, are ectothermic. This means that, normally, they’re not capable of regulating their own body temperature. However, sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters have developed some pretty incredible methods to keep warm. Using something called counter-current heat exchange, sharks can survive in even the coldest of the world’s oceans. 

Here, we’ll discover seven species of shark that spend their lives swimming in the coldest waters on Earth. We’ll learn about their life cycles, diets, behaviors, and more.

1. Porbeagle

Porbeagle shark caught on a fisherman's line.
Lamna nasus, the porbeagle, looks like a miniature great white shark.

Porbeagles are some of the smaller sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters. They have torpedo-shaped bodies with wide girths, narrow tails, and pointed snouts. Their pectoral fins are longer than their dorsal fins, and they have stiff, upright tails in addition to large eyes. Their backs and sides are gray, while their bellies are white. They look like compressed versions of great white sharks.

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These sharks have been observed both alone and in small schools. They eat a wide variety of bony fish, including herring, cod, flatfish, mackerel, icefish, and pilchards. They also eat smaller sharks, like spiny dogfish, as well as squid and octopus. Porbeagles grow up to 12 feet long and can weigh up to 500 pounds. They’re currently listed as Vulnerable and live throughout the north Atlantic and many Arctic waters.

2. Salmon Shark

Rare underwater photograph of a <a class=
Lamna ditropis, the salmon shark, is a species of mackerel shark that hunts cold northern waters.

©Warren Metcalf/Shutterstock.com

Salmon sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters are apex predators. Unsurprisingly, they eat a lot of salmon, as well as squid, herring, and other medium-sized fish. They’re only found in the northern Pacific and have occasionally been spotted off the coast of Washington state. These sharks have very thick, short bodies with long fins. They grow up to 10 feet long and can weigh almost 500 pounds. Salmon sharks have white bellies with dark gray and black coloring on their backs and sides.

The salmon shark takes around 10 years to reach sexual maturity for females, and five years for males. They’re not dangerous, and few to no attacks on humans have ever occurred. 

3. Spiny Dogfish

Spiny dogfish shark Deep - 15 meters Japan sea Russia
Squalus acanthias, the spiny dogfish, only live in cold northern waters during the summer months, when they follow prey north.

©Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock.com

The spiny dogfish is one of the smallest sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters. These sharks are currently listed as Vulnerable to extinction and live only in oceans and coastal waters. They grow up to 5 feet long, though most are between 2-3 feet. Spiny dogfish have large eyes and long snouts. They eat small fish like herring, as well as crab, shrimp, squid, and other invertebrates. These sharks take a long time to reach sexual maturity—up to 12 years for females.

4. Pacific Sleeper Shark

Animals that live near volcanoes – sleeper sharks
Somniosus pacificus, the Pacific sleeper shark, lives only in the northern Pacific Ocean.


Pacific sleeper sharks are some of the largest sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters. They grow at least as large as 14 feet long, though they may exceed 20 feet long in some cases. These sharks live in very deep waters, so they look a little different than your usual shark. Pacific sleeper sharks have blunted snouts, thick bodies, and very low dorsal fins. They have an all-over gray color and eat many fish and invertebrates. They’re not commonly seen, but they are believed to be common in the northern Pacific ocean.

5. Greenland Shark

Greenland shark swimming, Somniosus microcephalus, shark with the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate species
Somniosus microcephalus, the Greenland shark, produces urea to keep itself warm.

©Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com

Greenland sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters are only found in the coastal areas of the north Atlantic. These sharks are famous for their incredibly long lifespans; some estimates range as long as 500 years. Greenland sharks live exclusively on the seafloor, eating anything they can find at great depths. They grow to over 21 feet long and may weigh over 2,000 pounds.

Because of their highly variable diet, Greenland sharks have teeth that look closer to the teeth of stingrays than to those of sharks. They’re still considered apex predators, though, and even occasionally come close to the surface to hunt seals. However, they’re not considered dangerous to humans.

6. Basking Shark

Basking Shark with mouth open
Cetorhinus maximus, the basking shark, is one of the largest sharks on Earth.

©Chris Gotschalk / Public Domain

Basking sharks are among the largest sharks in the world, growing up to 26 feet long. These sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters may be huge, but they eat the smallest creatures in the ocean. Basking sharks are filter feeders, like baleen whales, and consume only plankton and other tiny creatures. They’re also known as sail fish, sunfish, bone sharks, or elephant sharks. Basking sharks are currently listed as endangered; they live in temperate waters all over the world.

7. Bluntnose Sixgill Shark

Biggest Shark: Bluntnose Sixgill
Hexanchus griseus, the bluntnose sixgill shark, lives only in very deep water.

©NOAA Ocean Explorer from USA – License

Also known as the cow sharks, these sharks that live in frigid Arctic waters grow up to 20 feet long. They’re found in temperate waters all over the world and are present in the Arctic waters of the north Pacific. These sharks eat a wide variety of fish and have two different types of teeth. Their upper teeth are sharp and pointed, while their lower teeth are flat and serrated. Bluntnose sixgill sharks live and hunt in deep parts of the ocean; they’re specially adapted to survive in deep, cold waters.

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Biggest Shark: Basking Shark
A basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, swimming near Coll Island, Scotland. The most impressive feature of the basking shark is its mouth, which opens up to 1 meter wide.
© Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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