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Animals | Cold Impact

It's so cold, sharks are washing up and freezing

Digital writers

Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 13:29 - No one could have failed to notice the extreme cold temperatures gripping much of North America over the past few days (with yet another shot of freezing temperatures coming up shortly).

Making things worse are wind chill values making it feel colder than -20 in many areas. But while we are well aware of the hassles faced by people on land, the extreme temperatures are taking their toll on sea life as well.

Several thresher sharks were found washed up off Cape Cod in Massachusetts last week when temperatures were at their coldest, and those same temperatures are at least partially to blame for their deaths. They were migrating south as seas cooled, and washed up on the hook-like peninsula (as the New York Times reports occasionally happens to dolphins). Two were first spotted dead on December 27.

"Both of these male sharks were nearly the same size and likely stranded due to cold shock," the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy reported on Facebook that day. "Morphometric data, organs, and tissue samples were collected to be examined (once they thaw)."

Conservancy staff later found a second shark on December 29, that was actually too frozen to take samples from.

"We hauled the shark off the beach and it is currently thawing at NOAA Fisheries Service to be dissected later. A true sharkcicle!" a Facebook post read.

The sharks aren't necessarily freezing in the water. Rather, their sensitive ocean-going physiologies just can't handle exposure to the open air when temperatures are as low as they have been.

"If you’ve got cold air, that’ll freeze their gills up very quickly,” Greg Skomal, a marine scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, told the New York Times. “Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die.”

WATCH BELOW: Great white jumps out of water into 73-year-old man's boat

SOURCE: Atlantic White Shark Conservancy | New York Times

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