Talk about a one-of-a-kind discovery—an extremely rare cyclops shark has been confirmed in Mexico, new research shows.
by Christine Dell’Amore
The 22-inch-long (56-centimeter-long) fetus has a single, functioning eye at the front of its head—the hallmark of a congenital condition called cyclopia, which occurs in several animal species, including humans.
Earlier this year fisher Enrique Lucero León legally caught a pregnant dusky shark near Cerralvo Island (see map) in the Gulf of California. When León cut open his catch, he found the odd-looking male embryo along with its nine normal siblings. “He said, That’s incredible—wow,” said biologist Felipe Galván-Magaña, of the Interdisciplinary Center of Marine Sciences in La Paz, Mexico.
Once Galván-Magaña and colleague Marcela Bejarano-Álvarez heard about the discovery—which was put on Facebook—the team got León’s permission to borrow the shark for research. The scientists then x-rayed the fetus and reviewed previous research on cyclopia in other species to confirm that the find is indeed a cyclops shark.
The cyclops shark also has other deformities, including albinism, or a total lack of tissue pigments; no nostrils; a bump on its snout; and a spinal abnormality, according to Galván-Magaña. (See more pictures of albino animals.)
A mother’s poor diet—especially a lack of vitamin A—can cause cyclopia in mammals, including people, but it’s difficult to determine the cause of the condition in sharks, he said…