|The 24' Basking Shark washed up on the
Dennys River shore is closely examined by marine biology students from the
University of Maine at Machias. (Gail Menzel photo)
shark washes up on shore in Edmunds
by Gail Menzel
Gayle M. Kraus and 15 of her marine biology students at the University of Maine
at Machias had a rare opportunity to dissect something bigger than a frog - a
24-foot basking shark which had washed up on the Edmunds side of the Dennys
River just opposite the Dennysville clerk's office. The animal had been sighted
in apparent distress on the evening of September 27 off Hinckley Point. The
next morning it was found dead on the river bank.
gaping wound on the shark's large conical snout, presumably caused by a
propeller collision, apparently disabled its sensory system, causing the fish
to lose its bearings, Kraus conjectured. The animal might have suffered a
severe infection that, along with severe blood loss, resulted in its death, she
Cetorhinus maximus, as the basking shark is
known to biologists, is the world's second largest fish - the largest is the
whale shark - and is commonly found near the surface of the water in this
region during August and September. In winter, the fish travels to deep water,
but little is known of their migration patterns. Kraus noted that a school of
about 50 basking sharks was observed this summer off Grand Manan. The animals
were breaching, a behavior she suspects was a courtship
As plankton feeders, the fish swim with mouths
open to filter copepods and other crustaceans, fish eggs and larva through gill
rakers. The gentle giants pose no threat to humans; their teeth are numerous
The mottled, dark grey individual beached in
Edmunds was identified by Kraus and her students as a female, 7.37 meters long
(24 feet, 4 inches) and about 4.5 meters in circumference at the widest point.
Her dorsal fin was 81 centimeters high and tail 2 meters high. Though she was
mature, and the species bear live young, no pups were found in her on autopsy.
In addition to the gaping snout wound, she had an old and healed propeller scar
on her back. Otherwise the animal appeared to be in good
The students sampled gills, skin, liver and
ovary, and the tissues have been frozen for further analysis as well as for
educational use in several courses taught by UMM faculty. If possible, Kraus
would like to obtain some or all of the shark's skeleton. Bone testing could
help determine the individual's age, and if the complete skeleton could be
collected, it would be a prized addition to the university's aquaria exhibit
for school children in this area. Kraus was hoping for a volunteer who would
haul the animal out on a full tide to a suitable beach where the flesh could
decay and the skeleton could be harvested.This story was taken from the Quoddy
Tides, October,13, 2000.
Shark Dies In Dennys River
|This female 24' 4"
Basking Shark was found washed ashore on the Dennys River last Thursday. This
particular breed of shark is of no danger to humans. The University of Maine
was called in to investigate the cause of death.
(Photo by Jim Lowe)
By Jim Ellingson
DENNYSVILLE-Last Wednesday, reports of a large fish, disoriented and struggling
in the waters of the Dennys River, drew the notice of area residents and
wildlife authorities. Thursday, the object of their attention was found
deada Basking Shark, probable victim of a propeller
Dr. Gayle Kraus, Professor of Marine Biology at
the University of Maine at Machias, said, "The Fish and Wildlife folk got in
touch with me [Thursday] to identify what it was ... and , - they wanted -to
know what killed it."
"I'm thinking probably a propeller
blade took off its snout ... that would have caused her to be very disoriented.
That's where all the sensory-endings areso they can
"I can't think of any animal
that would've attacked and not gone back for moreif it were like the
great white or the killer whales. They would have finished it
"I think the poor animal died slowlyloss of
blood and infection, probably,"
(Cetorhinus maximus), are the second-largest living fish in the ocean (after
the Whale Shark, which grows to lengths of 50 feet or more) reaching an average
length of 22-29 feet (undocumented claims of nearly 40 feet have been reported)
and weighing between 4000 - 8000 pounds.
relative, the Great White Shark, the Basking Shark poses little danger to man.
Its teeth, nothing like the fleshrippers flashed across the screen in Jaws, are
minute and embedded. The shark feeds entirely on plankton, filtering, its food
through bristle-like gill rakers.
hunted for its liver, skin, cartilage and fins, many questions remain
unanswered about this creature which ranges through most of the world's oceans.
It has been the prey of small-scale harpoon fisheries during the 19' and 20th
centuries and is currently heavily exploited by harpoon off the coasts of Japan
and and China.
The Basking Shark was declared a protected
species in the western North Atlantic by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries
Service in 1997.
Dr. Kraus, and students from her Marine
Biology class, took samples and measurements of the huge
Kraus noted that the shark was a female and that
it was carrying no young (pups).
"We measured her," said
Dr. Kraus. "She was 24'4" in length and, at her widest part, about 13'
"She looked in really good healthas best as
I could make that (determination]," she said. "If it had been laying on its
belly in the water, and you could swing next to it, [the basking shark] would
have been 4-5 feet high without the dorsal fin."
sort of girth is just amazing," she exclaimed.
information gathered by the marine biology class will be used mainly for
educational purposes. Kraus does plan to contact some chemists, at the
university, and elsewhere, to see if they are interested in conducting various
"I am hoping," she said, "that
somebody will be a good Samaritan ... and drag [the shark] onto a beach where
it could rot out a bit so we can get the skeletal
Kraus would like to put the skeletal material
on display where school children and university students could study
The professor noted that the dead basking shark bore a
scar across its backthe cause of the old wound was most likely from a
Basking sharks are believed to feed continuously,
slowly following the food source at or near the surface of the water, mouths
held wide-open to sieve the plankton from the
Ordinarily, humans are at no risk from this
inoffensive creature. However, the basking shark has been known to flail
dangerously if startled by sea kayaks. The immense size and power of basking
sharks should invite caution and respectthey have been observed to leap
completely from the water. Severe abrasions and lacerations could result from
contact with their skin.
Taken from the Calais Advertiser,