A great white shark choked on a sea lion and died off the shore of Australia's Coronation Beach earlier in the week, the country's department of fisheries determined Thursday.
The death of the shark was a mystery to officials who couldn't initially find any signs of injury or disease when the carcass washed up on shore about 17 miles north of Geraldton, according to a statement by Rory McAuley
, the Australia Department of Fisheries principal research scientist.
McAuley said the male shark was apparently feeding on a large sea lion when his meal got stuck in his throat.
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"This could explain why the shark was exhibiting such unusual behavior in shallow waters off Coronation Beach," said McAuley. "It is possible that the shark was trying to dislodge the blockage. Such a large object may have damaged the shark's internal organs or impeded water flow into his gills, contributing to his death. Alternatively, the shark may have accidentally become stranded in his attempts to get rid of the obstruction."
The department said in its statement that the shark was one previously tagged by researchers in southern Australia in January for scientific study. Scientists took tissue and vertebral samples from the shark for future research, including genetic, age and growth, ecological and population assessment studies.
"This information will be useful in improving our understanding about white sharks," McAuley told the Australian Broadcasting Company.
BBC News reported
that while great white sharks are protected in Australian waterways, selective killings had been under way in hopes to reduce shark attacks on humans. Critics have complained that the kills could hurt the sea's ecosystem.
in early May that the Western Australian government caught 172 sharks, and killed 50 of them as part of the controversial shark culling program. The three-month program used baited lines attached to floating drums to catch sharks off heavily populated beaches in Western Australia.
The 50 sharks that were killed were tiger sharks longer than 10 feet were killed between Jan. 25 and April 30. The largest shark measured 14.8 feet and was caught in February off Perth's Floreat beach.
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