A great white shark that washed up on an Australian beach this week likely died after a sea lion got stuck in its throat, fisheries officials said Thursday.
Before it was discovered on the sand, the four-meter (13-foot) white pointer had been filmed thrashing around just off Coronation Beach, 430 kilometers (270 miles) north of Perth, Agence France-Presse reported. Although "no visible signs of injury or disease" had been found, the Western Australia Department of Fisheries said in a statement that a large sea lion was discovered to be lodged in its throat.
Scientists believe that the shark could have been attempting to dislodge the blockage.
"This could explain why the shark was exhibiting such unusual behavior," principal research scientist Rory McAuley said. "Such a large object may have damaged the shark's internal organs or impeded water flow into his gills, contributing to his death."
"Alternatively, the shark may have accidentally become stranded in his attempts to get rid of the obstruction," he added.
Eyewitness Brad Tapper, who had been at the beach at the weekend with his family and filmed the shark as it struggled in shallow waters, told the Western Australian newspaper that a dog walker first noticed the shark when his pet refused to go in the water, according to BBC News.
"When we spotted it, it was about 50 meters off the shore. We thought it was a diver or something," he told the newspaper. "It was kind of surreal, you're watching it and you don't realize how rare it is at the time until you get home and have a look at the footage."
But despite efforts from some beachgoers to tow it out to sea, he said the shark returned to shore. "We went to look at it and got within three or four meters of it but it started kicking and thrashing around again so we thought it was time to leave," Tapper said.
The shark, which officials said had been fitted with an acoustic tag in South Australia this year, was found washed up on the sand on Tuesday.