For only the second time ever, a member of this insanely rare shark species, that can live up to 500 years, was washed ashore on a UK beach.
A senior researcher from the Zoological Society of London came across the washed up body of a rare Greenland shark on a beach in Newlyn Harbor, Cornwall, on the southwest coast of England. However, by the time experts had arrived at the location, the shark was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, the tide had come in and washed the carcass away.
As both scientists and wildlife enthusiasts were determined to recover the animal, a search party was launched not shortly after. The shark was later found floating off the coast of Cornwall, and it was successfully brought back to shore.
This marks the second recorded occasion of a Greenland shark being washed up on a beach in the United Kingdom, giving scientists a chance for the first time to conduct an autopsy on a Greenland shark. It was a juvenile female that measured 13 feet (4 meters) long and weighed 628 pounds (285 kg). Greenland sharks generally become mature at around 150 years, but their size continuously gets larger as they get older, and adults reach an astonishing 24 feet (7,3 meters) in length.
James Barnett, a veterinary pathologist from the Cornwall Marine Pathology Team, who carried out the postmortem of the shark, told LiveScience that the shark was probably alive, when it got stranded, and that its stomach was pretty much empty. He also noted that the shark could have had a type of blood infection called septicemia. As for why the shark didn’t eat and ended up in the shallow waters off Cornwall, scientists do not yet know.
Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) live in the coldest, and deepest parts of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, which means these animals are very rarely seen. These sharks can live for hundreds of years, making them the longest-living vertebrates. However, determining their age is complicated by the fact that, unlike most other sharks, their vertebrae do not show the stages of growth. Therefore, researchers can can tell the age of these animals by analyzing tissue samples or by examining their constantly growing eye lenses.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its slow metabolism could possibly explain the Greenland shark’s long life, and they state that this amazing shark species is a very important member of the ecosystem. Currently, their population is thought to be decreasing and the IUCN has listed them as vulnerable.
It’s always said to see such a gorgeous specimen dead. The poor guy can nevertheless help us better understand this amazing species.
Sources: 1, 2