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A truck-size shark washed up on a Maine beach. How did it die?

The dead basking shark was more than 26 feet long.
The dead basking shark was more than 26 feet long. (Image credit: Tanner Fields)

Fishers in Bremen, Maine, discovered a dead shark the size of a pickup truck on their local shore Tuesday (Jan. 5), according to news sources.

Citizens of Bremen, Maine examine the 26-foot-long shark. (Image credit: Tanner Fields)

Officials with the Maine Department of Marine Resources identified the gargantuan specimen as a male basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus, which roughly translates to "biggest-nosed marine monster") and measured it at 26 feet (8 meters) long. As of today (Jan. 7), the cause of death remains unknown.

Basking sharks are the second-largest fish in the world, reaching lengths of up to 40 feet (12 m), according to the Florida Museum. Only the elusive whale shark, which can grow to be more than 60 feet (18 m), is larger. Basking sharks are found in warm waters all over the world, sometimes migrating thousands of miles, and are the largest sharks that cruise the waters off New England.

Related: 10 times sharks made our jaws drop in 2020

Despite their imposing appearance, basking sharks are mostly harmless to humans. They feed by swimming forward with their huge mouths open, slurping up thousands of tons of seawater every hour and filtering out tasty zooplankton and other tiny marine invertebrates through their gills, according to the Florida Museum.

These sharks often feed near the surface, appearing as though they're basking in the sun (hence, their name). While a basking shark probably wouldn't bite you, it might ram you with its rough-and-tough body if you found yourself in its way, the Florida Museum warns.

And don't forget to look up: Basking sharks can leap up to 4 feet (1.2 m) out of the water, researchers found in a 2018 study.

*Editor's note: This article has been edited to clarify that Tanner Fields did not discover the beached shark, as an earlier version of this story claimed.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon Specktor
Brandon Specktor writes about the science of everyday life for Live Science, and previously for Reader's Digest magazine, where he served as an editor for five years. He grew up in the Sonoran Desert, but believes Sonoran hot dogs are trying way too hard.