Marine biologists investigate type of shark responsible for Encinitas attack

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A team of marine biologists is working together to find out what type of shark attacked a 13-year-old boy at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas Saturday.
Chris Lowe, a Marine Biologist and Director of the Shark Lab at Cal State University Long Beach, is part of the team.

They’ve used techniques similar to that of a crime scene investigator, complete with DNA samples and forensics.

“These are common forensics tools that are used for investigating crimes,” said Lowe. “We are just now getting to the point where we are getting reasonable data where we may be able to use this to find out what sharks are involved.”

He said they’ve used everything from witness accounts to the clothing collected at the scene.

“We had an opportunity to examine a piece of the wetsuit that the boy was wearing,” said Lowe. “So the goal was to see if we can swab some of the perforations in the wet suit to see if we can get shark DNA that might tell us what species was involved.”

Andrew Nosal is a Marine Biologist with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and he said he’s also working with lifeguards in North County and he has a hunch based on what he has seen.

“The injuries that I saw were very severe and, based on those, there’s really no other species in Southern California that could do that kind of damage, except for a white shark,” said Nosal.

He said Southern California has been a nursery for white sharks, so it is not uncommon to see them roaming off our coast, but what was uncommon is what happened directly after the attack.

“It’s a little bit odd that the shark followed the kayak back towards shore,” said Nosal. “This just could have been curiosity by the shark. It’s kinda hard to say why the shark did it. This doesn’t happen enough to draw any sort of conclusions from it, but I would say that little added aggression, we might call it, is again good reason for the lifeguards to shut down the beaches temporarily.”

At around 11 feet, experts said the shark was likely a juvenile, which is important because at that stage in their maturity, they’re transitioning from eating fish to larger mammals.

“We don’t know whether the shark was thinking he was a seal and made a mistake,” said Lowe. “We don’t know whether the boy may have been in that sharks personal space and the shark felt threatened.”

Lowe said the more information, the better, so they can figure out why this happened. That’s the tough question marine biologists have tried to answer. Why do sharks occasionally go after humans?

DNA from Keane’s wetsuit was sent to a lab in Michigan and Lowe is expecting to receive results later this week.

 

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