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Scientists shocked after seeing tiger shark throw up echidna

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Researchers said Thursday they were shocked to see a tiger shark regurgitate an echidna while tagging marine life near Orpheus Island off Australia’s northeast coast.

A team of researchers from Australia’s James Cook University observed a medium-sized tiger shark regurgitating a whole, dead echidna in May 2022, which the university said was “a world-first discovery.”

“We were quite shocked by what we saw. We really didn’t know what was going on,” marine biologist Nicolas Lubitz said in a university news release.

Lubitz said he managed to take one photo as the shark was spitting out the echidna, which shows the outline of the monotreme in the water.

The researcher said he could only assume the three-meter shark had grabbed the echidna while it was swimming in shallow waters off the island, as it was still intact when the shark regurgitated it.

“It was a fully intact echidna with all its spines and legs,” he said. “It was a decent size tiger shark, but it wasn’t huge. It’s rare for them to throw up their food, but sometimes when they get stressed they can.”

“In this case, I think the echidna must have just felt a little strange in its throat,” Lubitz said.

Tiger sharks are scavengers known to eat a wide variety of prey and even indigestible objects. According to JCU, they have been documented swallowing items including tires, license plates and even a small TV screen.

“Tiger sharks are known to eat anything. They are just scavengers. I have seen videos of them eating a rock for no reason,” Lubitz said.

The researchers said the tiger shark in question survived the episode unscathed and was fitted with an acoustic tracker before being released back into the water as part of the project carried out by the JCU team.

The researchers have so far tagged 812 animals with trackers to collect data on marine life in the area from Australia’s Gold Coast to the Torres Strait.

The university said the full data will be available later this year, allowing researchers to analyze the migration patterns of different marine species.

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