The recent week-long cold snap that shook the East Coast got the waters in Massachusetts so cold that sharks are freezing to death.
Like snakes and reptiles, sharks are normally cold-blooded creatures, but recent temperatures have gotten so cold that even sharks are freezing to death. Four thresher sharks have been found frozen in the waters near Wellfleet on the eastern side of Cape Cod Bay.
The bomb cyclone that struck the East Coast last week was particularly harsh with Massachusetts, bringing record low temperatures and blizzard conditions. Boston was hit especially hard after suffering the highest tide in recorded history, flooding coastal parts of the city.
While the cyclone has made things dreadful on land, it’s also sunk ocean temperatures to abnormally low numbers. Water temperatures dropped into the high 30s near Cape Cod, with surface temperatures being as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), according to the Cape Cod Times.
Thresher sharks can normally tolerate waters as cold as 44 degrees, but below that their organs start to shut down. Without any respite from the frigid temperatures, they freeze to death and float to the surface where they wash up on shore or on oceanic ice.
Most thresher sharks have already migrated to warmer waters off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas. It’s believed these poor sharks somehow became lost on their way and were caught by the extreme cold brought on by the cyclone.
The appearance of a thresher shark is unique in the marine world. Their elongated, whip-like tails are believed by marine-biologists to be a weapon used to stun their prey for easy consumption. They’re normally considered harmless to humans.
Michelle Wcisel, program director for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, says that local ice conditions and unusually high tides brought about by the cyclone have prevented them from examining the most recent shark corpse.
“It’s dangerous, really dodgy,” she said, adding that if it’s unsafe for experts that locals should stay away too. “We really don’t want people to try and go out there.”