An apex predator in the Caribbean Sea was killed in an unlikely way — it got stuck in a shoe.
The Caribbean reef shark was likely a month old when it died in waters off Grand Cayman, about 450 miles south of Miami, according to the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.
“A concerned public member ... found the shark with a plastic shoe around its body on the beach in South Sound,” the department wrote in a Sept. 20 Facebook post.
“The shark became entangled in a plastic shoe (slipper) which prevented it from swimming and covered the gills. This stopped the water flow over the gills and therefore oxygen uptake.”
Cause of death was suffocation, officials said. However, the constriction may also have impacted the shark’s ability to eat.
An examination of its stomach “revealed that the shark had not eaten recently, as only sand and a tiny worm were found,” officials said.
The shark was about two and a half feet long, indicating it had been born in late July or early August, officials said.
An explanation for how it ended up trapped in someone’s sandal was not offered.
Caribbean reef sharks grow as long as 10 feet and “are the apex predator of their food web,” The Florida Museum of Natural History reports. They are common around coral reefs in the Caribbean and have a little understood practice of “‘sleeping in caves and on the ocean floor,” the museum reports.
The shark’s death comes at a time when environmentalists note tons of plastic is ending up in the world’s seas and it “doesn’t decompose,” according to the National Ocean Service.
“That means plastic can stick around indefinitely, wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems,” the service reports.