A rare species of shark that usually lives in tropical waters has been found on the UK coastline for the first time in recorded history, marine experts have said.
Staff at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Devon, believe the creature which washed up dead on a nearby beach was a crocodile shark - a species commonly found in places such as Brazil and Australia .
Walker Steven Greenfields spotted it while out with family at Hope Cove, south Devon, and was so surprised by its appearance that he contacted the aquarium with photographs of the find.
He said: "We regularly visit this beach and have never seen anything like this before.
"My whole family was stunned as the animal had really unusual features but was unmistakably a shark."
Ross Spearing and his son, Nathan, were also intrigued by the animal and sent in photos after spotting it on a walk.
James Wright, curator at the aquarium, said numerous traits visible in the photographs suggested it was not any shark usually recorded in UK waters.
He said: "Exploring our network of contacts led to successful identification by Marc Dando, who is a local professional wildlife artist, whose work can be seen at the aquarium.
"This species has never been recorded in the UK before, as it is normally found in deep waters during the day in tropical climates.
"It is likely to be an isolated incident, but there have been similar stranding incidents in South Africa. This time of year though UK waters are at their coldest so this occurrence is very unusual."
He added that the cold waters would have caused a shock to the animal's system and accounted for its death.
The species, which is listed as "near threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, has spiky teeth and is the smallest of the Mackerel sharks, a group that includes the deadly Great White.
Paul Cox, managing director of the Shark Trust, said crocodile sharks were too small to be valuable but were landed as bycatch, adding to the impact on their future numbers.
He added: "For all sharks, but especially the less common ones, any information that we can get is useful so it's great that this one has been reported and identified."