A crocodile shark, a marine creature normally found in deep tropical waters, has been discovered washed up on a beach in Devon.
The crocodile shark, which is normally found in tropical climates such as Brazil and Australia, was discovered on a beach at Hope Cove near Plymouth.
It is the smallest of the Mackerel sharks, a group that includes the deadly Great White and is listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The shark circles divers moments before it breached the cage
It shares distinctive spiky teeth and huge eyes with the Great White, but adults grow to only around one metre in length and weigh an average of 13lbs (6kg).
It is normally found in deep waters during the day in waters south of the Caribbean in the Atlantic and feeds on moderately small marine life, such as fish and squid.
The dead specimen was spotted on a family walk by Steven Greenfields, who was so surprised he sent photos of it to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth.
He said: ‘We regularly visit this beach and have never seen anything like this before.
‘My whole family was stunned as the animal had really unusual features but was unmistakably a shark.’
Ross Spearing and his son, Nathan, were also intrigued by the animal and sent in photos after spotting it on a walk.
Experts say it is the first time a crocodile shark has been found around the British coastline where the cold waters offshore may have killed it.
James Wright, curator at the aquarium, said: ‘This species has never been recorded in the UK before.
‘It is likely to be an isolated incident, but there have been similar stranding incidents in South Africa. This time of year though UK waters are at their coldest so this occurrence is very unusual.’
Paul Cox, managing director of the Shark Trust, said crocodile sharks were too small to be valuable but were often landed as bycatch, which was having an impact on their numbers.
‘For all sharks, but especially the less common ones, any information that we can get is useful so it’s great that this one has been reported and identified,’ he added.
First ever report of Crocodile Shark in UK. The small tropical shark was found dead at Hope Cove nr Plymouth and identified by @NMAPlymouth pic.twitter.com/9D3cqjFi0D
— Julie Skentelbery (@Skentelbery) March 2, 2017