Second sighting of shark species spurs experts into action

A shark which was found washed up on a Co Wexford beach is believed to be the first of its kind to enter Irish waters since records began.

Weighing up to 400kg and coming in at a length of 4.3m long, the animal was discovered at Kilmore Quay by a visiting Swiss tourist.

Not knowing that the animal was in fact a rare smalltooth sand tiger shark, the visitor made contact with scientists at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) who scrambled to the scene.

"He emailed me some photos of the animal," Dr Nicholas Payne told UTV, "and as soon as I saw what it was I thought, okay, this is a big deal."

Dr Payne is an Assistant Professor in Zoology at TCD and a self-confessed 'shark nerd'.

Along with his team from the university, Jenny Bortoluzzi, Haley Dolton and University College Dublin scientist Kevin Purves, they made their way from Dublin to Wexford just in time before the incoming tide took the animal out to sea.

Experts on the beach with the shark. Credit: Jenny Bortoluzzi and Kevin Purves

The same species was found on Lepe Beach in Hampshire in March, with it believed to be the first to enter UK waters.

It was much smaller than the shark found at Kilmore Quay.

Dr Payne told UTV that the species is more inclined to be found in deep waters in sub-tropical areas.

"In the northern hemisphere, the most northerly record we've had for this species has been around the Bay of Biscay area, so several hundred miles south of where we are," he said.

"So these two recent sightings, one in the UK and then one here, represent pretty significant increases in the distribution limits of the species.

"There haven't been lots of opportunities for researchers to learn about the basic biology and anatomy or even about the reproductive system of these animals so we're going to try and learn as much as we can."

The shark on the beach in Wexford. Credit: Jenny Bortoluzzi and Kevin Purves

It is not yet known how or why both sharks ended up around our waters but it has sparked scientists into finding out answers to both questions.

Smalltooth tiger sharks are not believed to pose any risk to people but Dr Payne said that they can feel threatened and may bite as a reaction to interference. He advised people not to go near them if they find the shark washed up but to contact experts.

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