BASKING SHARK PICTURE: Giant Stranded on Long Island

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A reportedly 20-foot-long (6-meter-long) basking shark that washed ashore on a beach on New York's Long Island on Tuesday appears to have died from some kind of illness (basking shark picture and wallpaper).

(Also see "Giant Shark Mystery Solved: Basking Shark Hideout Found.")

New York State Parks official George Gorman said researchers will examine the basking shark to determine a cause of death. After that, it will be buried in nearby sand dunes on the beach.

Basking sharks are common in the waters off Long Island. The giant washed ashore on a town beach a few miles east of Jones Beach State Park, a popular recreation area for New York City-area residents.

Basking sharks are the world's second largest fish, after whale sharks, and can grow up to 32 feet (10 meters) long. Despite their giant mouths, the sharks are not considered dangerous and feed mainly on plankton. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the giant sharks as vulnerable to extinction.

After examining the basking shark, Tracy Marcus of Cornell University's Long Island-based Sport Fishing Education Center said the shark weighs about a ton. She said it is unusual for an ailing basking shark to come ashore. Usually they die in the ocean.

Raw Video (Long Island, New York, July 14, 2009)

The cause of the Long Island shark's beaching may remain a mystery—as is where the giant creatures come from.

"We still have no idea where they give birth," Gregory Skomal, a marine biologist from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, told National Geographic News in May.

(Also see: "World's Largest Shark Species [Including Basking Sharks] at Risk, Expert Says.")

—AP, Babylon, New York

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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