Four frozen sharks have washed up in Massachusetts during a winter storm which has brought heavy snow and freezing temperatures to the US East Coast reports LiveScience.com.
The dead male thresher sharks found on beaches in Cape Cod were all too frozen for researchers to perform immediate post-mortem examinations. Another frozen shark, measuring 14ft, was found on 29 December in Brewster and had to be thawed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries service before researchers could examine it.
It has emerged that the latest shark carcass was discovered on New Year’s Eve in an ice pack near Wellfleet, towards the northern hook of Cape Cod. The discovery came two days after a pair of male thresher sharks were found stranded on a nearby beach. Authorities believe all four sharks died from cold shock.
Thresher sharks, a solitary species, are commonly spotted offshore in Cape Cod during the summer. They usually migrate to warmer waters in the south, but the AWSC says some may have got caught in the hook of Cape Cod before being trapped in the peninsula’s bay. The sharks likely died not from hypothermia but from stranding themselves in shallow waters as they attempted to migrate south.
“If you look at the shape of Cape Cod as a landmass, it really is kind of a natural trap. Some of the sharks likely got around Cape Cod and moved to the east of Cape Cod, while others made the mistake of traveling closer to shore and got caught inside Cape Cod Bay, becoming entrapped in the landmass,” explained Greg Skomal, the senior fisheries scientist who leads the shark research program for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.
Scientists believe threshers are impaired when exposed to waters below 44F (6.7C), and Cape Cod Bay’s water temperature fell to 37F (2.6C) last Thursday, according to the NOAA. The current cold snap has ushered a spate of rapid cooling, forcing the sharks to scramble south with new urgency.
New England, which includes Massachusetts, experienced a severe cold snap in December which developed into a bomb cyclone last week. A bomb cyclone is caused by a storm’s central low pressure dropping at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, bringing in hurricane-force winds.
Storm Grayson has brought heavy snow and freezing temperatures to eastern parts of the US, including the usually tropical Florida. And this is yet another example of how wildlife is being affected by the freak weather on the east coast, following recent reports of alligators frozen in ice.