Eventually, the stomach was found, and it was virtually unrecognizable. The fish’s stomach was so small, it looked more like a gallbladder, especially when comparing it to the shark’s oversized liver. To our dismay, when we cut open the stomach to analyze its contents, it was empty. This dogfish hadn’t died due to ingesting an obscene amount of plastic or being attacked by a bigger fish. It had starved to death.
How was this possible that this fish died from starvation?
As our research team regularly conducts “roving survey” dives where we collect data on the abundance of indicator species, we knew that this dogfish should’ve had no problem finding its next meal.
We, quite literally, needed to dig deeper into the dogfish. We continued our dissection with an incision along the throat, where we found a fishing hook lodged in the shark’s esophagus. The hook in the shark’s throat was stuck in such a way that nothing the shark ate would’ve been able to pass through to the stomach.
The dogfish was likely caught by a fisherman and released, or got away somehow. The exact scenario is unknown, but when the dogfish swallowed the fishing hook, its fate was sealed. The bite out of its head was likely from a large grouper and was most likely made after the shark had already died.