A stranded Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) with a Cookiecutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis) bite. 

This was a dolphin that stranded in a nearby village a couple of weeks ago. The local government stranding response was really good and in a couple of hours the dead dolphin caught a ride up a steep hill from the beach to the main road from a bunch of strong and ingenious men who fashioned a “stretcher” out of wood and rope lying around. 

Popped on the truck, it made it’s way home. To my home, which is fast becoming the dolphin grave yard. Though my living here, and it’s use as a dolphin burial ground are unrelated, it makes for easy work! We performed a necropsy on this super skinny male and found it’s stomach completely devoid of contents. No sign of plastic or fishing hooks though – so it probably had a disease that stopped it from eating. 

What did not kill it is the seemingly traumatic bite from it’s side. The massive hole went all the way down to the muscle layer and is the calling card of one of the weird monsters of the deep – the Cookiecutter shark! 

Also known as the cigar shark, this charmer grabs large cylindrical chunks of flesh out of large marine animals. How you might ask?

It sucks onto the body surface of the prey and retracts its tongue to create negative pressure with suction lips to ensure a tight seal. Then, the bite, anchored by narrow upper teeth and sliced by the menacing lower teeth. And to top it off, some acrobatics, as the shark twists and rotates the body to make a circular cut, and we’re done. 

The bites don’t kill the “prey” which can include cetaceans, sharks, sting rays, dugongs, bony fish and the occasional human….!

Cookie Cutter Shark | Credit

Cookie cutter sharks are horrifying, especially in relation to their name. More Hansel and Gretel than gingerbread.