70 babies found inside North Saanich Shark

A team of scientists from UVic performed a necropsy on a shark that washed ashore at Coles Bay

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

Metchosin aims to enforce dog leash rule after dog attacks on sheep farm after dog attacks

Stillmeadow Farm loses three to five sheep every year due to loose dogs

Sidney cougar sighting ‘unverified’ near Tulista Park in Sidney

Conservation Service receives multiple unverified reports of cougars in the region area weekly

Don’t chase away armed suspects: West Shore RCMP

Police say teen broke into garage on Jenkins Avenue around 2 a.m.

Langford sets sights on cultural development

Museum, conference centre and performing arts theatre proposed for McCallum Road property

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Island woman’s tats put her in the running for $25,000 prize and Inked magazine cover photo shoot

Chemainus Secondary grad and Ladysmith resident a strong contender in voting

UPDATE: 14 arrested at blocked rail line in northern B.C., police say

But a Gitxsan hereditary chief says 14 were arrested, as fight over natural gas pipeline continues

Hospital parking fees needed, but changes to payment system possible, health minister says

B.C. health minister Adrian Dix says hospital parking doesn’t need to be so stressful

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

IHOP to host seventh annual National Pancake Day

IHOP will be offering free short-stack pancakes in support of BC Children’s Hospital on Tuesday

Most Read