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Basking shark which washed up on beach 'could've been dead for some time'

PUBLISHED: 18:00 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:00 15 November 2019

A carcass which washed up on Felixstowe beach was that of a basking shark. Picture: ALAN BOYLE/ EVERYTHING FELIXSTOWE

A carcass which washed up on Felixstowe beach was that of a basking shark. Picture: ALAN BOYLE/ EVERYTHING FELIXSTOWE

ALAN BOYLE/ EVERYTHING FELIXSTOWE

It was first believed to be a whale but marine experts have now confirmed the carcass washed up on Felixstowe beach was that of a basking shark.

The basking shark caracass on Felixstowe beach. Picture: ALAN BOYLE/ EVERYTHING FELIXSTOWEThe basking shark caracass on Felixstowe beach. Picture: ALAN BOYLE/ EVERYTHING FELIXSTOWE

The basking shark carcass which was around five to seven metres in length, was found by a member of the public on Felixstowe beach yesterday morning.

Read more: Tragic video shows shark carcass washed up on Felixstowe beach

Initially the carcass was believed to be a whale, but after much debate marine experts confirmed that the two fins mean it was in fact a basking shark.

What is a basking shark?

According to the Wildlife Trust, the basking shark is the "largest shark in UK seas, reaching up to 11 metres in length".

They are believed to have a life span of around 50 years.

Jo Collins, the Suffolk coordinator for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) charity, said the basking sharks cause of death is hard to determine because of how badly decomposed it was.

She says that it "could've come from anywhere", but explains that basking sharks are not commonly found in this area and are instead found to the western parts of the UK - primarily in the waters surrounding Wales, Cornwall and northern Scotland.

"Basking sharks are a member of the fish family and are completely different to whales," added Jo, who has worked for the BDMLR for more than seven years.

She continued: "Sharks have a very different anatomy to that of a whale.

"The basking shark has a distinctive dorsal fin and a smaller fin further back, with a vertical tail. While a whale has one dorsal fin and a horizontal tail."

Jo said that the BDMLR and the National History Museum were sent pictures of the decomposed carcass from the coastguard team and experts could spot the remains of the second dorsal fin.

How did it end up at Felixstowe beach?

Jo explained that it is difficult to ever know how the basking shark ended up in Felixstowe - purely because of the extent of decay.

She explained: "We don't know whether it was damaged before it died, or whether it was eaten by scavengers, which are animals that consume dead organisms that have died from other causes."

Basking sharks only eat plankton, which Jo says are not commonly found in these areas as they live in the deep waters of the ocean.

She explained that usually when a whale washes up on a beach London Zoo would sample the remains and do a post-mortem.

However, in this case as the shark is not protected by the same legislation and it is too severely decomposed, they would not be able to investigate it any further.

The basking shark was removed by East Suffolk Council yesterday afternoon after they were informed by the Felixstowe Coastguard Rescue Team.

The council was worried about it being a toxic hazard, especially for people who were unaware and were walking their dogs off of the lead.

It was safely removed and taken to Clarkes of Melton, which is an animal disposal service.

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