Two-headed bull shark fetus found in Gulf of Mexico
File this one under "Weird Science News." A fisherman has found a two-headed bull shark fetus in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a study published in the Journal of Fish Biology on Monday.
The 2011 discovery is the first-ever recorded case of monosomic dicephalia in a bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), reports C. Michael Wagner, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University.
Monosomic dicephalia is the scientific term to describe "an individual with two heads that eventually fuse into a single lower torso," Wagner wrote in an email to the Toronto Star.
A fisherman caught a female bull shark near the Florida Keys on April 7, 2011, and after opening up the animal's uterus, found the live two-headed fetus.
The fetus was likely near term, Wagner said. It later died.
The fisherman gave the unusual fetus to researchers to study.
The fetus was found to have two separate heads, stomachs and hearts but it had a single body and tail, Wagner and his team discovered.
So what does this discovery mean -- if anything -- for the health of the world's oceans?
"Nothing," Wagner said in his email to the Star. "This is a single observation of a rarely observed phenomenon, so it merits inclusion in the scientific literature. But, because we cannot ascribe any particular cause to this event, we cannot make an inference about the circumstances that led to the occurrence.
"However, it does have some additional value from the perspective of the general public," he continued. "These anomalous creatures are fascinating, and provide a segue for journalists such as yourself to engage in a discussion about more important topics, like the health of the world’s oceans."
that the journal Nature published a paper last year on a proposal to
measure the health of the oceans.
Lorianna De Giorgio is the Toronto Star's Foreign Web Editor. Follow her on Twitter @ldegiorgio