The two headed shark
SCIENTISTS CONFIRM FIRST TWO-HEADED BULL SHARK and a fisherman
Scientists have confirmed the discovery of the first-ever, two-headed bull shark.
The study, led by Michigan State University and appearing in the Journal of Fish Biology, confirmed the specimen, found in the Gulf of Mexico April 7, 2011, was a single shark with two heads, rather than conjoined twins.
There have been other species of sharks, such as blue sharks and tope sharks, born with two heads. This is the first record of dicephalia in a bull shark, said Michael Wagner, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife, who confirmed the discovery with colleagues at the Florida Keys Community College.
“This is certainly one of those interesting and rarely detected phenomena,” Wagner said. “It’s good that we have this documented as part of the world’s natural history, but we’d certainly have to find many more before we could draw any conclusions about what caused this.”
The difficulty of finding such oddities is due, in part, to creatures with abnormalities dying shortly after birth. In this instance, a fisherman found the two-headed shark when he opened the uterus of an adult shark. The two-headed shark died shortly thereafter and had little, if any, chance to survive in the wild, Wagner added.
“You’ll see many more cases of two-headed lizards and snakes,” he said. “That’s because those organisms are often bred in captivity, and the breeders are more likely to observe the anomalies.”
The shark was brought to the marine science department at Florida Keys Community College. From there, it was transported to Michigan State’s campus for further examination.
Wagner and his team were able to detail the discovery with magnetic resonance imaging. Without damaging the unique specimen, the MRIs revealed two distinct heads, hearts and stomachs with the remainder of the body joining together in back half of the animal to form a single tail.
As part of the published brief, Wagner noted that some may want to attribute the deformed shark to exposure to pollutants.
“Given the timing of the shark’s discovery with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I could see how some people may want to jump to conclusions,” Wagner said. “Making that leap is unwarranted. We simply have no evidence to support that cause or any other.”
Wagner's research is supported in part by MSU AgBioResearch.
When a fisherman caught a bull shark recently off the Florida Keys, he came across an unlikely surprise: One of the shark's live fetuses had two heads.
The fisherman kept the odd specimen, and shared it with scientists, who described it in a study published online today (March 25) in the Journal of Fish Biology. It's one of the very few examples of a two-headed shark ever recorded -- there about six instances in published reports -- and the first time this has been seen in a bull shark, said Michael Wagner, a study co-author and researcher at Michigan State University.
Technically called "axial bifurcation," the deformity is a result of the embryo beginning to split into two separate organisms, or twins, but doing so incompletely, Wagner told OurAmazingPlanet. It's a very rare mutation that occurs across different animals, including humans.