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It's So Cold Outside That Sharks Are Actually Freezing to Death

Three sharks washed up on the shores of Cape Cod this week after suffering "cold shock."
Photo via Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's Facebook

As climate change ushers in another year of extreme global temperatures—a phenomenon President Trump seems a little confused about—cities up and down the East Coast are facing record-breaking snowfall and subzero temperatures. But while city dwellers might be able to hide indoors and crank up the heat, some animals aren't so lucky.

According to the Cape Cod–based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, it's gotten so cold that sharks in the area have been washing up on the shore and essentially freezing to death. This week, the organization responded to three thresher sharks that likely suffered "cold shock" in the surrounding waters.


As reports, organisms suffer cold shock when they're exposed to extreme dips in temperature and can sometimes experience muscle spasms or cardiac arrest. Scientists believe the sharks swimming off the coast of Cape Cod—where temperatures have dropped to 6 degrees—suffered cold shock in the water, and then wound up getting stranded on the shore, where they likely suffocated.

"If you’ve got cold air, that'll freeze their gills up very quickly," Greg Skomal, a marine scientist, told the New York Times. "Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die."

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is currently working alongside the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the NOAA Fisheries Service to find out more about how the three 14-foot male sharks died—a process the frigid temperature hasn't made very easy.

"We hauled the shark off the beach and it is currently thawing at NOAA Fisheries Service to be dissected later," the conservancy wrote on Facebook about the most recent shark discovery. "A true sharkcicle!"