In a reverse-Jaws situation, as many as 2,000 leopard sharks have turned up dead in the San Francisco Bay in the past few months. Hundreds of bat rays, striped bass, and halibut have died as well, said Dr. Mark Okihiro, a research scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Necropsies have shown that many of these dead sharks were infected with a brain-eating parasite that often causes the sharks to beach themselves. California isn't prioritizing this situation, however, because leopard sharks aren't yet endangered. Still, with one species dying so rapidly, experts say the bay's entire ecosystem is at risk.
It's unlikely humans swimming in the bay could contract the same parasite that is plaguing the sea life. Okihiro estimates 1,000 to 2,000 sharks have died — but because sharks don't float naturally, there's no telling how many more sharks may have died but haven't washed up on shore.