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Mutated shark with a ‘human face’ found by fisherman

Published Feb 26th, 2021 11:17PM EST
human faced shark
Image: The Ocean Agency/Adobe

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  • A baby shark found dead off the coast of Indonesia has a striking mutation that gives it the appearance of a human face.
  • The shark likely died because its mutation made it much more difficult to survive, dooming it to a very, very short life.
  • The shark may have been afflicted with a condition called cyclopia, which can affect the way the eyes form when the animal is still developing. 

A fisherman working off the coast of Indonesia recently made a most unusual discovery. According to reports, Abdullah Nuren was fishing near Rote Ndao when he found a dead juvenile shark. Finding a dead shark may be a rare occurrence on its own, but this shark was special in its own way. When Nuren flipped the shark over he found that it had two huge, circular eyes, and a gaping mouth, giving it the appearance of a cartoon character.

It’s clear that the shark was the victim of some kind of mutation, and that its life was likely cut short due to its strange appearance. The tiny sea creature is almost cute, really, but its eyes are haunting, and there may be a very good explanation for why it looks the way it does.

The fisherman that caught the shark had no explanation for its odd look, but once photos of the creature began circulating online, it wasn’t long before some theories began to form. Without being studied by scientists we can’t say for sure what happened to the shark during its development, but one Twitter user proposed a very plausible explanation.

Cyclopia is a condition that can affect many different species, including humans. It’s a blanket term used to describe a mutation that takes place during an animal’s early development. The gist is that the animal’s eyes fail to form properly, and in some cases, this leads to an animal having just one eye instead of two. In some cases, the animal may have one eye but two pupils, or in the case of this shark, the split of the eyes that should have taken place early in development took place much later, and the eyes didn’t have time to move to their correct location, resulting in the bug-eyed appearance of the shark. The fact that it somewhat resembles a human face is just a very odd coincidence.

Mutations are what drives evolution. Tiny changes in animals can give them an advantage over their brethren, and if enough animals with a certain mutation survive long enough to pass on their genes, those traits can become the standard for the species. In the cast of this tiny shark, the mutation was detrimental, and the shark simply couldn’t survive and may have even starved to death due to its inability to obtain food.

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