A great white shark with cuts and puncture wounds on its body washed ashore, dead, on a beach in Aptos, Calif., Sunday, and law enforcement officials with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife are investigating. The male shark, believed to be a juvenile, weighed about 500 pounds and was eight or nine feet long. A necropsy was completed on the seemingly healthy shark, which was described as "fat and robust," and something it uncovered led the investigation to turn criminal, but it's not clear what, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, noting that the idea of foul play being involved sent "shock waves" through the research community.
"Great whites have numerous protections under state and federal laws. They are an extremely rare animal and play a crucial role at keeping the oceans, ecosystems and food webs balanced," one researcher says. Another researcher had earlier theorized to KION the shark may have been involved in a fight with another sea animal, swallowed debris, suffered an injury from a fishing hook, or that a pathogen could be to blame. A marine biologist had previously come under fire for posing for a photo with the dead shark, the San Jose Mercury News reports, though researchers said they were just attempting to document its size in case it washed away before its body could be recovered. (Read more great white shark stories.)