On Wednesday October 18, decaying dead sharks washed up on Florida beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. "I've never seen anything like this," said Dr. Enric Cortes, a biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Panama City. "Mass mortalities in sharks are very unusual." About 85 percent of the sharks were blacktips, and the rest were Atlantic sharpnose, Cortes said. Most were juveniles 3.5 to 4 feet long. The cause of death remains a mystery. No signs of injury from fishing nets or long lines could be detected. Pathologists are testing tissue from the dead sharks to determine if a "red tide" algal bloom could be to blame, but that seems unlikely because no other fishes or sealife died. Cortes speculates that the sharks may have died from a low level of oxygen in the shallow waters. In the News this week takes a closer look at sharks and marine studies of the Florida coast.


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