70 pups found inside dead shark washed ashore on Vancouver Island

Team of scientists from University of Victoria performed a necropsy on a shark that washed ashore

About 70 baby sharks were removed this week from the carcass of the bluntnose sixgill shark that washed ashore at Coles Bay in North Saanich.

In front of a curious crowd of onlookers, the autopsy, known as a necropsy, was performed by scientists from the University of Victoria’s Baum and Juanes laboratories.

RELATED: 10-foot-long shark washes ashore in North Saanich

The scientists took samples that they plan to investigate using chemical analyses called stable isotopes, back at UVic. This will show what the mother was eating in the period before her death and how this compares to the food consumed by her babies. Another department will also study the sharks’ stomachs and livers for the presence of micro-plastics.

The shark, known as a Hexanchus griseus, washed ashore on Feb. 5. One of the first people to investigate it was Brian Timmer, who is a student in the Juanes laboratory.

He said his team was granted permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to take samples.

RELATED: North Saanich mystery shark identified, UVic lab seeks to do necropsy

Experts thought the fact the shark was pregnant meant she died because of complications while she gave birth. Mother sharks are known to come into shallower waters to give birth and have large litters of 20 to 100 pups.

Geoff Osgood, studying for his PHD in sharks, counselled caution in coming to conclusions until further investigations had taken place.

He said that although this species of shark is thought to be common because they normally live in such deep water, there are many aspects of their behaviour and life that are unknown.

READ ALSO: Ratfish generates social media buzz on Vancouver Island

He was especially interested in their population numbers.

“We can take a look at how many pups are present,” he added. “It’s useful in understanding its growth rate, how quickly their populations can grow.”

“Right now, Canada has [this species] listed as ‘special concern.’ Because sharks, in general, are a very slow growing species, they take a long time to reach maturity, their gestation period is very long, and compared to other bony fish who can release millions of eggs at a time, it [the number of babies] is no where near the levels of millions at a time.”

READ ALSO: Rare ‘king-of-the-salmon’ washes up on Oak Bay beach

There has already been interest from across North America in the North Saanich shark. Researchers have fielded calls from Californian scientists looking to collaborate.

Timmer said the team is especially excited, as the research they conduct in the coming weeks will lead to a published scientific paper later in the year.

nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

AnimalsScience

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Iconic white raven returns to Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Photographer John Domovich: ‘It blew me away when I first observed it’

Qualicum Beach man arrested over racist incident at Tseshaht First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP said the man turned himself in

COVID-19: City of Parksville announces gradual re-opening plan

Sports courts and playgrounds to open June 5

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

RCMP: Parksville cyclist hurt after being clipped by passing vehicle

59-year-old man suffered minor injuries; driver failed to stop

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read