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Shark chokes on sea lion: Obstruction in shark's throat, did it really choke?

A shark chokes on sea lion catch out in ocean waters before washing ashore in Australia last week. Western Australia's Department of Fisheries said it appears that the great white shark got the sea lion lodged in his throat and was unable to get it out, Orlando Sentinel reports on July 19.

No signs of injury or disease befell the 13-foot-long shark, that was captured on a video, principal research scientist Rory McAuley said. A sea lion was found in the shark's throat during an examination.

Several witnesses noticed a tagged shark struggle for hours on July 12. Two days later the same shark washed ashore at Coronation Beach.

McAuley says:

"It is possible that the shark was trying to dislodge the blockage. Such a large object may have damaged the shark's internal organs or impeded water flow into his gills, contributing to his death."

In a report to the contrary, the Los Angeles Times reports that shark expert Chris Lowe, from Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab, says it probably wasn't a blockage that killed the animal.

Lowe explains to LA Times via email:

"They can't choke to death like humans since an esophageal block doesn't restrict breathing in a shark. It's most likely that the shark was rubbing along the seafloor to dislodge the food and the animal just stranded and couldn't get back to deeper water."

Rory McAuley did consider that same thing in his second theory, however. If a shark chokes on something like a sea lion, the animal was trying to possibly get rid of the obstruction, but got stuck

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