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Top Ten Stories of 2013: Honorable mention; Leviathan rises from the deep

Scientists examine the corpse of a sixgill shark at Argyle Lagoon June 26. - Journal file photos / Sharalyn Lehman
Scientists examine the corpse of a sixgill shark at Argyle Lagoon June 26.
— image credit: Journal file photos / Sharalyn Lehman

The waterfront of San Juan Island became a makeshift laboratory when the body of one of the more poorly understood creatures of the deep washed up in Argyle Lagoon June 26. Faculty and students of UW Friday Harbor Labs rushed to the scene to take advantage of a rare chance to poke, prod, examine, dissect and carry back parts of a recently deceased sixgill shark.

Measuring nearly 12 feet in length, the carcass of the female, estimated at 25-50 years of age, was nearly intact.

Named for its distinctive feature, all other sharks have five, sixgills are slow-moving predators typically found in the outer ocean and in waters of up to 3,000 feet deep. While little is known of their behaviors, due to the depth at which they live, the prevailing theory is that female sixgills venture into the more protected, shallow waters of Puget Sound to give birth.

Labs’ shark specialist Adam Summers said the female was not carrying “pups” and the cause of its death remains unknown.

“It might just be a case of old age,” he said.

— Scott Rasmussen

 

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