The recent discovery in Mexico of a one-eyed albino baby shark has created a stir among scientists and piqued the interest of thousands who have seen the images and questioned the authenticity of the find. The three-foot-long fetus was removed from the body of a large bull shark captured by a commercial fisherman in the Sea of Cortez beyond La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur.
The story broke late last week on the Pisces Sportfishing blog, under the headline, “Freak Shark Puzzles Scientists.”
Pete Thomas Outdoors then shared the top right image with two well-known shark experts in California. Both were skeptical at first, suggesting it was some kind of hoax.
One of them jokingly identified the species as a “Cycloptomus” because of a perfectly centered eye located just above the mouth.
But renowned shark expert Felipe Galvan confirmed having seen the shark and stated that he has produced a paper on the discovery, which is under scientific review. “When I have an answer from the journal I will give you more information,” he said via email.
The story began to circulate widely on shark-related websites. A post on the Shark Diver blog stated, “The eye is the freaky part and we might have called “Faux Shark” on this one until word that renown shark scientist Dr. Felipe Galvan had seen, studied, and produced an initial paper on this otherworldly animal.”
On Sunday, Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager at Pisces in Cabo San Lucas, posted more details after interviewing the fisherman who caught the pregnant bull shark.
It was caught on a large hook baited with ballyhoo, tethered to a line beneath a buoy fixed in place by another line anchored by a sand bag. The shark was dead when it was hauled up, long after the set was made near Cerralvo Island.
It was taken ashore and filleted, a process that revealed nine normal pups and the albino, one-eyed fetus.
“The fisherman told me that this one would have been born first, due to the position it was in — first in line at the exit, but that he doubted that it would have survived,” said Ehrenberg, who did not reveal the fisherman’s name.
Shark fishing is controversial because so many species are in decline, but residents of fishing villages in coastal Baja communities know of no other way to make a living and rely on whatever bounty they can catch to provide for their families.
Said Ehrenberg, a strong proponent of marine conservation: “It’s kind of sad to see a female with pups inside killed but this was taken by a commercial fishing skiff and this is how this fisherman makes his living. All parts of the shark are used, including the skin. The meat is salted and sent to mainland Mexico, where it is usually sold as bacalo or “cod.”
Photos courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing