The shark that was found at an Amagansett ocean beach on Tuesday evening has been officially identified as a great white. It was dissected on Thursday afternoon by the National Marine Fisheries Service with assistance from Stony Brook University faculty, students, and staff at the Southampton Marine Station.
As for why the shark washed ashore, “There was no obvious physical evidence of severe trauma or disease,” said Demian Chapman, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, “but it is important to understand that scientists are rarely able to determine the cause of death of white shark carcasses given our limited knowledge of the species."
The main purpose of the dissection, he said, was "to gather data on this species as opposed to trying to determine why it died."
It is possible that the shark did not wash ashore at all, and was instead dumped on the beach by a fisherman who accidentally hooked it. "As a prohibited species, it is important to note that it is illegal for members of the public to possess white shark carcasses or parts and that any accidentally captured white sharks should always be released alive and in a manner that minimizes stress to the animal." While the species was made infamous by the movie “Jaws,” great white sharks are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, meaning that they are likely to become endangered unless the conditions threatening their survival improve.
Given the limited knowledge about the species, the great white carcass is a valuable find and will be used to provide information for further research.
The scientists determined that the shark was 167 centimeters long (that's about 66 inches) and weighed 30 kilograms (66 pounds). It was a juvenile male, no more than 2 years old.
Samples were taken from the fins, jaws, and muscle tissue, from the vertebral column to be used in age and growth studies, and from the stomach to be used in diet studies. A DNA sample was also taken, and will be used in an ongoing study of white shark genetics at Stony Brook University.
Finally, a reproductive examination was performed. Mr. Chapman said that this examination, "when combined with data from older males will elucidate how male white sharks mature."
"All in all," he said, "The specimen yielded samples and information that will help scientists and the National Marine Fisheries Service better understand and protect white sharks."
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