Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sea lion wound suggest sharks in Puget Sound

From KVUE.com: Sea lion wound suggest sharks in Puget Sound
SEATTLE -- The cause of death was clear. State Fish and Wildlife biologists confirmed a sea lion had been shot in the head, twice. It was one of several found shot to death in Puget Sound in the last several weeks.

But one sea lion, found near the Nisqually Delta, had another wound that caught the attention of biologists. A large chuck, 14 inches by 16 inches, had been chomped out of the side of the creature. It was a photo researchers at the Seattle Aquarium had been waiting for.

Researches at the aquarium have been studying the photo of the dead sea lion. They believe that they are looking at the work of a Puget Sound shark.

"That's why we're excited, we don't have one," said Aquarium Biologist Joel Hollander.

Hollander and his colleagues are convinced the wound came from a Puget Sound shark. The group has been studying sixgill sharks for a decade and have plenty of pictures of the mysterious sharks eating chum balls (balls of fish meat set out to lure them), but this is the first time they've seen what it's bite wounds look like on a large mammal carcass.

Hollander is sure the bite occurred after the sea lion was dead from gunshot wounds but he is not positive it was bitten by a sixgill. He said it's location, the shallower waters near The Nisqually Delta are more likely to be a hangout of a close cousin, the sevengill shark.

Little is known about either of those Puget Sound resident sharks. They are rarely seen and usually leave no victims partially consumed.

The sharks seem to be good neighbors for humans. They've never been known to attack people or any other large, living mammal.

Hollander and others routinely dive among the sharks with little fear but after seeing this photo, they will make sure they never do anything to resemble a dead sea lion.

In a few weeks the Seattle Aquarium will be kicking off a new set of experiments on sixgill sharks featuring video from directly below their facility on the Seattle waterfront.

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