Crocodile shark washes up on Devon beach

Experts are puzzled how the shark, normally found near equator, could have reached UK

A crocodile shark, a marine creature normally found in deep tropical waters, has been discovered washed up on a beach in Devon.

A family found the shark at Hope Cove beach on the south coast and, thinking it was still alive, braved its sharp teeth to try to return it to the water before realising it was dead.

Experts are puzzled how a shark normally found in and around the equator could have reached the British coast. One theory is that it followed a warm, deep water current before reaching cold water in which it could not survive. Another possibility is that it was caught in fishing nets further south and discarded near the British shore.

The shark on the beach.
The species has never been recorded in the UK before. Photograph: Ross Spearing/PA

Steven Greenfields said he was walking with his family at Hope Cove when he spotted the dead fish.

“We regularly visit this beach and have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “My whole family was stunned as the animal had really unusual features but was unmistakably a shark.

“I have experience with sharks whilst swimming and diving overseas, but, despite a fair amount of fishing and swimming in the UK all my life, have never seen any shark in UK waters other than dogfish.”

Photographs of the find were sent to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. The curator James Wright said: “On first inspection of the photos we thought the animal could be a juvenile porbeagle shark, which is found in UK waters. However, we identified numerous traits that suggested it was not any shark usually recorded in UK waters.

“Exploring our network of contacts led to successful identification by Marc Dando, who is a local professional wildlife artist.

“This species has never been recorded in the UK before, as it is normally found in deep waters during the day in tropical climates, such as Brazil and Australia, then coming shallower at night to feed.

“It is likely to be an isolated incident, but there have been similar stranding incidents in South Africa. This time of year though UK waters are at their coldest so this occurrence is very unusual.”

The shark is only around a metre long. Substantial numbers are landed as a bycatch, especially by tuna fleets. In Japan, it is known as the water crocodile because of its teeth and its tendency to snap when out of the water.

It is not considered dangerous to humans but was blamed for damage caused to a deep sea fibre-optic cable between Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Paul Cox, the managing director of the Shark Trust, said: “They are relatively uncommon and the UK is well outside the shark’s usual range so it’s a really interesting find.”

The body of the shark was lost in the attempt to return it to the sea so it could not be examined.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Shark bites teacher in Devon surfing incident
Rich Thomson was surfing off Bantham beach in south Devon when a metre-long shark bit his hand

Steven Morris

08, Jun, 2017 @9:58 AM

Article image
Outrage as blue shark is cooked and served at Plymouth Seafood festival
Animal is paraded through town before being chopped up as part of cookery event

Steven Morris and agency

17, Sep, 2019 @12:09 PM

Article image
British shark bite victims recovering after Australia attack
Alistair Raddon had foot amputated while Danny Maggs suffered lacerations to his leg

Aamna Mohdin

29, Oct, 2019 @7:32 PM

Article image
Shark spotting in Essex: 'It was like a scene from Jaws'

A year after the search for the 'Essex lion', another unusual species is seen in the English county

Ben Quinn

03, Sep, 2013 @7:56 PM

Article image
First known omnivorous shark species identified
60% of the bonnethead shark’s diet is made up of seagrass, which they happily graze upon as well as eating fish, crabs, snails and shrimp

Ian Sample Science editor

04, Sep, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
Devon police under fire for proposal to suspend badger protection law
Devon and Cornwall force’s idea to ease the pressure of policing the cull was termed ‘appalling’

Steven Morris

28, Jan, 2018 @1:48 PM

Article image
400-year-old Greenland shark is oldest vertebrate animal
Shark, which would have reached sexual maturity at around 150 years, sets new record for longevity as biologists finally develop method to determine age

Nicola Davis

12, Aug, 2016 @8:18 AM

Article image
Ocean floor rover finds large shark nursery in Irish waters
Vehicle discovers school of blackmouth catsharks around thousands of egg cases

Patrick Barkham

09, Nov, 2018 @1:48 PM

Article image
Marine 'gold rush': demand for shark fin soup drives decimation of fish
Finning is still rampant in many countries due to diners’ appetite for the delicacy, despite attempts to shut down the trade

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

04, Jun, 2019 @12:39 PM

Article image
Byron Bay shark attack victim named as British expat Paul Wilcox

50-year-old mauled by suspected great white while swimming off Clarkes beach in New South Wales dies of his injuries

Brigid Delaney in Byron Bay and Mark Tran

09, Sep, 2014 @2:06 PM