Visitors of Wrightsville Beach saw something Monday that very few people ever see, especially in this coastal North Carolina town. A great white shark washed up on the beach that morning. The shark’s cause of death has yet to be determined, and was taken to UNC Wilmington where a necropsy has been performed. 

The 8-foot long shark was found dead near the Crystal Pier and Oceanic Restaurant. A crew from UNC Wilmington’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program removed the shark from the beach, but not before many onlookers were able to get an up-close look at a creature that has captivated beachgoers for many decades.

Great white sharks are not rare in North Carolina waters, but according to Professor Thomas Lankford of UNC Wilimington’s Marine Biology Dept, it is extremely rare for one to wash ashore. He also said the unfortunate event does give a rare opportunity for students to learn a lot about the great white species.

Dr. Ann Pabst, also of UNC Wilmington, agreed. “This is a very rare event in our area. This is the opportunity to learn a great deal of the biology of the really poorly understood and really threatened marine species. What’s really interesting about what’s going on behind us is that there are many students involved with this.

The results of the necropsy will take some time, but Pabst expects them to shed important light on the species as a whole, and on this specific shark, who was estimated to be about 20-years-old.