3 sharks die of apparent 'cold shock' at Cape Cod

Three sharks found on the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this week likely died of “cold shock” as frigid winter temperatures hit the East Coast, according to shark experts.

The three thresher sharks were all males and all close to 14 feet long. Two were found Wednesday on Wellfleet and Skaget beaches. The third was discovered Friday near Brewster.

Atlantic White Shark Conservancy experts examined each animal and determined they “likely succumbed” to cold shock, though they won’t know for certain until necropsy results are available. Organs and tissue samples were collected from the first two, and the third shark was taken to the fisheries service center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to thaw.

RELATED: 8 crazy facts you didn't know about sharks

8 crazy facts you didn't know about sharks (BI)
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8 crazy facts you didn't know about sharks (BI)

Sharks have special organs to sense changes in their environment.

Sharks have special organs called neuromasts throughout their head and along their bodies to help them sense water pressure and movement in their surroundings. They’re usually located just below the skin inside of mucus-filled pores. 

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They can sense electromagnetic fields.

Some neuromasts are specialized to sense other changes in the environment. These are called ampullae of Lorenzini. Each ampullae works independently to distinguish the difference in electric potential in the environment versus in the shark's body.  Scientists think that this may allow sharks to detect prey, like muscle spasms originating from an injured fish, as well as predators, and mates. It is also thought that these ampullae may be responsible for detecting the Earth’s magnetic field, helping guide sharks during migration.

Researchers are also using what they know about this system to try and create new shark repellents.

(Photo by David Fairfield via Getty Images)

Sharks can be hypnotized.

Technically, sharks can undergo what's called tonic immobility, or a natural state of paralysis. Researchers can induce this state in a shark by either flipping the animal onto its belly or rubbing its snout, depending on which species it is. Humans aren't the only ones who know how to use this trick. Scientists think large cetaceans, like whales, may use it as well to defend themselves or prey upon sharks (instead of grabbing hold of the dorsal fin, a larger marine animal would bite it). It may also be a tactic that sharks use on each other during mating to prevent injury to the female. 

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They're probably color-blind.

There are at least 440 known species of shark. Among such a diverse population, it’s impossible to say for sure that all of them are color-blind. But some research suggests that many are. All animal's eyes contain two different photo receptors, sensory cells that respond to light, known as rods and cones. Rods determine the light levels that can be recognized while cones control for color. A study of 17 different shark species found that although the animals can see at a huge range of light levels, they can only see at one color spectrum: Green. This is very rare in land animals, but common in other marine species such as whales, dolphins and seals.

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But sharks have a crazy sense of smell.

Sharks are able to smell one drop of blood in 1,000,000 drops (26 gallons) of seawater.

Sharks' noses can detect tiny delays in how much time a smell reaches one nostril compared to the other. They use this as a directional cue and turn towards the side that received the smell first, allowing them to stay oriented.

(Photo by Philippe TURPIN via Getty Images)

There's HUGE variety amongst shark species.

Over 400 species of sharks have been discovered so far. The smallest of all sharks — the Pale Catshark — hardly looks like the monster you may have dreamt about. This little fellow scales in at a mere 8.3 inches!

On the other hand, the well-known Great White shark can reach up to 20 feet and weigh in at over 5,000 pounds.

But even the Great White pales in comparison to the Whale Shark, which reaches lengths of nearly 50 feet (about as long as a coach bus!) and weighs an astounding 47,000 pounds.

They have a weird way of sleeping.

Sharks are animals with gills, meaning that they must have constant water flow to take in oxygen and survive. This seems like a problem since they usually achieve this by constantly swimming. But all animals must rest.

Some sharks have special organs called spiracles behind the eye that pump water over the gills even while they're sitting still. Species that never evolved to have this helpful feature find solace in taking short breaks from swimming while sitting face-first in the current to allow continued oxygen uptake through the gills. 

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The only bones sharks have are their teeth.

Like all vertebrates, sharks have a skeleton. The interesting thing about sharks is that theirs isn't made of bone. 

Unlike humans, sharks have a completely cartilagenous skeleton. This is the same stuff that makes up our ears and noses. This unique difference allows sharks to travel faster — important for hunting — since they can move their bodies without the rigidity of a bony vertebrate column. In the blink of a (human) eye, a shark can turn and bite a predator lurking at its tail. 

Cartilage is also a lot lighter than bone, aiding in buoyancy, or the shark's ability to stay afloat. Finally, it is much more durable to injury, which is a necessity in the predator-filled world that is the open ocean. 

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The sharks, which are common off Massachusetts, were most likely moving  south with the warmer water when they got “caught by the hook” of Cape Cod and were hit by the cold, the shark conservancy said on Facebook.

Cold shock occurs when an organism is suddenly exposed to extreme dips in temperature. It can cause muscle spasms or cardiac arrest. Sharks affected by cold shock may become stranded on land and quickly suffocate. Temperatures in Cape Cod have dipped to as low as 5 degrees in the past week.

NOAA biologists, meanwhile, managed to save several sea turtles from cold temperatures in Texas. After an alert from fishermen in Christmas Bay near Galveston Island, NOAA biologists located a “cold-stunned” sea turtle and later found 17 others. All were brought to NOAA’s sea turtle hospital in Galveston for rehabilitation. They’re being fed veggies, squid and shrimp, according to a Facebook post. 

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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