The extremely rare Greenland shark, which washed ashore in England last month, had a brain infection when it died, according to an animal autopsy of its remains.
Pathologists discovered evidence of this meningitisinflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord according to a statement from the Zoological Society of London (opens in new tab) (ZSL). This is the first reported disease-related death in one bowhead shark (somniosus microcephaly), an elusive, long-lived species that lives in the deep waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic.
“During post-mortem, the brain appeared slightly discolored and congested and the fluid around the brain was cloudy, raising the possibility of infection,” James Barnett, pathologist with the Cornwall Marine Pathology Team, part of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Program (CSIP ) and ZSL, the statement said.
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A microscopic examination of the greenland shark’s brain fluid revealed Pasteurellakind of bacteria. “That could well have been the cause of the meningitis,” Barnett said.
The Greenland shark was probably around 100 years old when it died. This may sound old, but it is quite young for a Greenland Shark, making this individual a juvenile female. While it’s not known how long these sharks can live, they can live to be at least 272 years old, according to a 2016 study published in the journal science (opens in new tab) found.
The deceased shark, which measured 4 meters long and weighed 285 kilograms, beached near Newlyn Harbor in Cornwall, southwest England, on March 13, but the tide washed the animal’s body back out to sea. Live Science previously reported. A pleasure craft company recovered the shark’s body on March 15, making it the second documented stranding of a Greenland shark in the UK to date.
The meningitis found at autopsy or animal autopsy likely explains why the shark had ventured out of its natural deep-water habitat and ended up stranding, the statement said.
The shark’s body was damaged and there was evidence of bleeding in the soft tissue around the pectoral fins, which combined with the silt in its stomach suggested the shark was alive when washed ashore, Barnett said. “As far as we know, this is one of the first autopsy studies of a bowhead shark here in the UK and the first report of meningitis in this species,” said Barnett.
The shark’s death provides “insights into the life and death of a species about which we know little,” Rob Deaville, CSIP project leader, said in the statement. “Ultimately, like most marine life, deep-sea species like Greenland sharks can also be affected by human pressure on the ocean, but there isn’t enough evidence at this time to make any connections.”
The team plans to release a research study on the shark’s autopsy report.
Originally published on Live Science.
100-year-old Greenland shark that washed up on UK beach had brain infection, autopsy finds Source link 100-year-old Greenland shark that washed up on UK beach had brain infection, autopsy finds