Meningitis killed Greenland shark found off coast of Cornwall, postmortem shows

A story from the Guardian

A stranded Greenland shark found off the coast of Cornwall died from meningitis, according to a postmortem, providing what is believed to be the first evidence of the disease in the species.

The 4-metre long shark, thought to be about 100 years old, was first discovered by a dog walker on 13 March on a beach near Penzance but was washed back into the sea before it could be properly examined. After a two-day search it was discovered floating in the water off Newlyn harbour beach by a tourist boat and a postmortem was carried out.

Greenland sharks live up to 2,600 metres below the surface of the Arctic and north Atlantic oceans. Pathologists believe meningitis explains why this female was out of her natural deep-water habitat. Her brain was slightly discoloured and congested with a cloudy fluid, which contained a type of bacteria called Pasteurella, likely to have caused the meningitis. It is not known how the shark got the infection.

The last time a Greenland shark washed up in the UK was in Northumberland in 2013. The discovery of this specimen has given researchers an opportunity to study the planet’s longest-lived vertebrate species – some are thought to be more than 400 years old. Despite probably being born just after the first world war, this shark was still considered a juvenile. Females are thought to reach maturity at 150 years old, when they are about 4.2 metres long.Advertisement

“This unfortunate and extraordinary stranding has allowed us to get an insight into the life and death of a species we know little about,” said Rob Deaville from Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP). “It’s almost certainly the oldest animal I’ve ever seen.

“With only a small handful of Greenland shark strandings previously recorded in the UK, this likely represents the first necropsy ever carried out on this species in this country and was an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the life and death of this cryptic and endangered deep-water shark,” he said.

By Hemming1952 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The full story can be found on the Guardian website