Cyclops Shark Appears to Be Legit

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(Image: Pisces Sportfishing)

The 'Cyclops shark' that went viral on the net a few months ago appears to be a legitimate one-eyed dusky shark fetus, according to LiveScience and numerous other media reports.

When photos of the shark first surfaced in the Pisces Fleet Sportfishing blog, at Facebook, and at other high traffic spots, many people thought the images were too bizarre to depict anything legitimate. The cute little bug-eyed individual looks more like a happy cartoon character than a real shark, especially when its mouth is held open.

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But National Geographic shares that two scientists from the Interdisciplinary Center of Marine Sciences in La Paz, Mexico, have studied the specimen and have determined it's a 22-inch-long dusky shark fetus with a single, functioning eye that's front and center on its head.

The fetus was discovered after fisherman Enrique Lucero León "legally caught" a pregnant dusky shark near Cerralvo Island in the Gulf of California.

Biologist Felipe Galván-Magaña of the center in La Paz told National Geographic that when León sliced open his catch, he found the odd-looking male embryo along with nine normal siblings. "He said, That's incredible — wow," according to Galván-Magaña.

Galván-Magaña and colleague Marcela Bejarano-Álvarez are ready to release a paper documenting their research. I haven't seen it yet, but apparently the scientists X-rayed the fetus and reviewed previous studies on cyclopia. If you click on that last hyperlink, you'll see images of a human baby with the disorder, characterized by one eye and often other facial problems.

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Puppies and kittens born with cyclopia usually die after just a day or so. The fate of the Cyclops shark was also probably sealed, even before León caught its mother.

Jim Gelsleichter, a shark biologist at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, said that no sharks with cyclopia have been caught outside of the womb, indicating that if such sharks do enter the world, their time here is extremely short.

Most sharks receive very little mothering and have to fend for themselves from day 1. This little one-eyed individual, once born, likely could not have fended for itself in the wild.