When an endangered, “exceptionally rare” shark washed ashore on a Hampshire beach, biologists jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the elusive species. Alleged trophy hunters beat them to it, however, mutilating the shark before any information could be gleaned from the deceased animal.
The head and eyes of the six-foot smalltooth sand tiger shark were of particular interest, according to scientists and conservationists. In studying these features, they hoped to learn more about the rapidly vanishing species. By the time they arrived on the beach to recover the body, however, the animal was barely recognizable as a shark.
Someone, presumably a trophy hunter, came upon the rare shark first, hacking off its head, tail, and fin, leaving only a butchered torso behind. The sight horrified scientists, who issued an impassioned plea for the return of the shark’s remains.
Shark update.— Dan Snow (@thehistoryguy) March 19, 2023
Biologist friends like @Ben_garrod identified it as an exceptionally rare visitor to these shores and asked me secure it. I failed. The head, tail and fin were grabbed before I get assemble a big enough team to drag it off the beach to the nearest road. pic.twitter.com/XinSiwrusU
As TV historian Dan Snow explained, his biologist friends asked him to help preserve the rare shark. He agreed, but never got the chance to follow through. “The head, tail, and fin were grabbed before I assembled a big enough team to drag it off the beach to the nearest road,” he explained on Twitter.
“It is not illegal to take parts from dead fish washed ashore, so there’s no judging,” he continued. “But if you took the head, please get in touch. Let the scientists have a look, and then it’s yours to keep.”
He later reiterated this plea, adding, “Please please – if you have the head, get in touch.”
Biologists to Perform Autopsy on Remaining Parts of Rare Shark
Despite missing crucial parts of the rare shark, scientists plan to conduct an autopsy on the remainder of the carcass. The Zoological Society of London will collect the animal on Tuesday before transporting it to a lab for study.
Due to the shark’s unfortunate mutilation, scientists might never know the “exceptional” circumstances that caused the shark to wash ashore in Hampshire, The Shark Trust explained. An autopsy, however, could still provide clues vital to understanding the species.
Ali Hood, director of The Shark Trust, still hopes to recover the full carcass. With the whole body, scientists could note “potential changes in distribution [of the species] over time.”
“Animals on land, sea, and air can stray from their ‘normal’ distribution,” she explained, “becoming vagrants often 100s of miles off their usual routes. Receiving reports of these vagrants is both fascinating and vital, key to noting potential changes in distribution over time.”
“This sighting may have been a vagrant,” she said of the rare shark, per Express. “But by maintaining records of occasional finds, new patterns may start to emerge – making all records important.”