Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Rare shark discovery the second in a week

An albino school shark was found at Muriwai Beach on Thursday. Photo / Van Haresnape
An albino school shark was found at Muriwai Beach on Thursday. Photo / Van Haresnape

A second rare shark has been found washed up on Muriwai Beach in less than a week.

Scientists were stunned when a heavily pregnant 2.6m oceanic whitetip shark was found dead on the beach 40km west of Auckland eight days ago.

The shark and six full-term pups removed from her belly have been preserved for research at the Auckland Museum.

But the beach again became the resting place of a rare creature when a 1.2m albino school shark was found dead on the shore on Thursday.

Department of Conservation shark biologist Clinton Duffy said school sharks were common but albino ones were not. He had never seen one before.

"I couldn't believe we got an ocean whitetip, that was a huge surprise, but then to have it followed up by this ... Albinism is something that occurs in all animals, it's just very unusual to see."

The shark was large for its species and had done well to survive into adulthood, Duffy said. It did not appear to be injured and he did not know why it had died. It was buried before tissue samples could be taken.

A third find from the ocean also excited scientists on Tuesday. Museum staff took samples from a 2m-wide sharptail sunfish washed up on Omaha Beach, 70km north of Auckland. The fish were usually found in the tropics, Duffy said.

Rare creatures may be coming to New Zealand because the ocean is warmer than usual. Niwa water temperature readings at Manukau Heads were between 18°C and 20°C, up from the usual 15°-16°C, he said.

- Herald on Sunday

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