Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 119–121 | Cite as

Postmortem wounds caused by cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius species): an autopsy case of a drowning victim

  • Takahito Hayashi
  • Eri Higo
  • Hideki Orito
  • Kazutoshi Ago
  • Mamoru Ogata
Images in Forensics

Case report

A woman in her late 50s was found deceased and floating in an ocean bay in a temperate region (N31°33′48″, E130°33′55″) surrounded by wave dissipation blocks. The woman’s appearance was orderly, except for her sweater, which was turned up to her face. Her jacket, shoes, and bag were found on a nearby block. The police investigation ascertained that she suffered from depression and had previously contemplated suicide. No suicide note or farewell letters were found. She was last seen alive, by relatives, approximately 6 days earlier.

Medico-legal autopsy revealed several antemortem abrasions and bruises on the head, one of which was accompanied by mild subarachnoid hemorrhages without cerebral contusions on the right parietal lobe. In addition, the victim showed the typical findings of drowning such as ballooning of the lungs (weight: left, 310 g; right, 380 g) with impressions created by the ribs and so-called “Paltauf spots” on the pleural surface, bilateral pleural...


Forensic Pathologist Bite Mark Tiger Shark Carcharodon Carcharias Shark Attack 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Dr. Kazuhiro Nakaya (Professor Emeritus of Hokkaido University, Japan), Tetsuji Miyazaki and Yoko Ihama (Department of Legal Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Japan) for their instruction on the character of the Isistius species and for their valuable assistance in providing photographs of the shark.


  1. 1.
    Bell MD. Drowning. In: Dolinak D, Matshes E, Lew E, editors. Forensic pathology-principles and practice. London: Elsevier Academic Press; 2005. p. 227–38.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ebert DA. Sharks, rays, and chimaeras of California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press; 2003.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Honebrink R, Buch R, Galpin P, Burgess GH. First documented attack on a live human by a cookiecutter shark (Squaliformes, Dalatiidae: Isistius sp.). Pacific Sci. 2011;65:365–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ihama Y, Ninomiya K, Noguchi M, Fuke C, Miyazaki T. Characteristic features of injuries due to shark attacks: a review of 12 cases. Leg Med (Tokyo). 2009;11:219–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Makino Y, Tachihara K, Ageda S, Arao T, Fuke C, Miyazaki T. Peculiar circular and C-shaped injuries on a body from the sea. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2004;25:169–71.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Yoshino N, Hayashi T, Ago K, Ago M, Ogata M. Circular and elliptical wounds probably formed by bites of cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius species)—an autopsy case of drowning. Res Pract Forens Med. 2013;56:193–7.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Statistical information, 2013. Japan Meteorological Agency.
  8. 8.
    Bury D, Langlois N, Byard RW. Animal-related fatalities-part I: characteristic autopsy findings and variable causes of death associated with blunt and sharp trauma. J Forensic Sci. 2012;57:370–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Byard RW, James RA, Gilbert JD. Diagnostic problems associated with cadaveric trauma from animal activity. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2002;23:238–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Byard RW, Gilbert JD, Brown K. Pathologic features of fatal shark attacks. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000;21:225–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Morgan M. The microbiology of animal bites. Bull Roy Coll Pathol. 2004;128:16–9.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nambiar P, Bridges TE, Brown KA. Allometric relationships of the dentition of the great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in forensic investigations of shark attacks. J Forensic Odontostomatol. 1991;9:1–16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Harding BE, Wolf BC. Alligator attacks in southwest Florida. J Forensic Sci. 2006;51:674–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Meyer PK. Stingray injuries. Wilderness Environ Med. 1997;8:24–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Weiss BF, Wolfenden HD. Survivor of a stingray injury to the heart. Med J Aust. 2001;175:33–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Haddad V, de Souza RA, Auerbach PS. Marine catfish sting causing fatal heart perforation in a fisherman. Wilderness Environ Med. 2008;19:114–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takahito Hayashi
    • 1
  • Eri Higo
    • 1
  • Hideki Orito
    • 2
  • Kazutoshi Ago
    • 1
  • Mamoru Ogata
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Legal Medicine, Graduate School of Medical and Dental SciencesKagoshima UniversityKagoshimaJapan
  2. 2.Yatsushiro Coast Guard Station, Tenth Regional Coast Guard HeadquartersJapan Coast Guard, KumamotoKumamotoJapan

Personalised recommendations