CHENIER/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL gating the remains of a basking shark that washed up
on the shore near Seaside Park are, Mary Sollows, left, and Katelynn
Vandebroeck, f the New Brunswick Museum and Steve Turnbull of the University of
New Brunswick Saint John.
studying Basking Shark
stream of people made the trying trek over the rocks near Seaside Park
Wednesday to take a close look at a 7.3-metre basking shark that washed up on
What killed the four-ton shark might remain as
much a mystery as the creature itself.
The four-ton shark
was found Tuesday, Steve Turnbull, a shark researcher at UNBSJ, said little is
known about the basking shark, which is a vulnerable species. Because 25 per
cent of its weight is liver, the prehistoric beast was almost hunted to
extinction for its oil.
"He's an early arriver,"Turnbull
said. "Usually they come in with the food source;' in the summer.
Warmer waters bring plankton and the gaping mouths of the
basking sharks. While it's a hulking beast and has a row of tiny teeth, the
basking shark is a harmless filter feeder.
their mouths and every thing goes through," Turnbull said as he inspected the
A small army of researchers armed with cameras,
knifes, buckets and tape measures descended on the beach as the news spread.
Turnbull said the mammoth fish could have become tangled
up in fishing nets and drowned, but there were no fresh scars visible. If the
shark can't swim, it will drown.
Two large appendages,
which looked like a pair malformed legs and hung from the bottom of the shark,
signify it a male. Called claspers, the appendages are used to hold onto the
female during mating.
Don McAlpine, research curator of
zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, said museum staff would collect a number
of samples for the archives. He said they also planned to try and remove the
"It's not too common," he said of the shark's
washing up on a local beach. "I don't think we have more than a half dozen in
the collection now."
Determining the age is difficult,
The only way to be positive is to remove
and study its vertebrae. The vertebrae form rings as they age similar to the
rings trees form as they age.
Only the whale shark, the
largest shark on the planet, dwarfs the basking shark.
1851, the largest basking shark ever caught was found in a herring net in the
Bay of Fundy. It measured a massive 12.3 metres and weighed a staggering 19
The one found Tuesday evening was of average length
The shark's dark greyish skin is rough to the
touch and not smooth as one would expect.
the effect of the sandpaper-like skin is to allow the shark to glide through
the water. The suits that competitive swimmers wear mimic the shark's rough
skin and the hydrodynamic effect it creates.
"It's one of
the most efficient designs in natures "Turnbull said. "They's not so graceful
on the beach, though."
Because of the location, getting
any heavy equipment to the site to dig a hole and bury it would be difficult.
The only hope is that it is washed back out to sea before the smell overwhelms
As of Wednesday morning, the stench was
barely noticeable, but as the fish began to cook in the hot sun, the smell
grew. Researchers would normally cut into the shark, but McAlpine said that is
not likely because then the smell becomes overpowering.
"If we open it up, we're going to bear some
responsibility for it,"he said.
Shark caught of Alma
This is a letter from a lady who's husband
works for Parks Canada and was involved in the reporting of the
A shark caught in nets just a few kms from the
wharf in Alma. Because he works for Parks Canada in it was on Park territory,
the staff had to investigate. They pulled it out of the water this morning. I
thought my husband was pulling my leg, so I told him I needed proof. It is
about 28 feet long. It is huge and very scary. These are pictures of the shark!
I told him I wanted to see him next to the shark, or I wouldn't believe him. So
if you ever think about going for a swim in Fundy Park, I would think twice
about that idea. They said because of Global Warming, this will happen more and
more. The ocean water here in Canada is getting warmer every year.