An albino fetal cyclops shark, born with one eye, has been authenticated by scientists who examined the creepy but cute creature after it was caught by a commercial fisherman in the Gulf of California.
The shark fetus, which measured "22-inch-long, 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," according to National Geographic.
The photographs of the cyclops shark went viral this summer after being posted on the Pisces Fleet Sportfishing website in July, causing skeptics to question if the pictures were the result of photoshop and destined to become the next Internet hoax. But shark experts say they are legit.
"This is extremely rare," shark expert Felipe Galvan Magana of Mexico's Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias del Mar told the Pisces Fleet Sportfishing blog in July. "As far as I know, less than 50 examples of an abnormality like this have been recorded."
Fisherman Enrique Lucero León discovered the cyclops shark fetus after he legally caught a pregnant dusky shark near Cerralvo Island in the Gulf of California and sliced open her belly. The male fetus was one of ten found inside the pregnant shark and the only one with any visible deformities.
Magana and his colleagues have announced they will publish a scientific paper documenting the find in November.
Live Science reports the researchers have determined "the single eye is made of functional optical tissue." Scientists seem to agree that the deformed shark would not have survived outside the womb. "Jim Gelsleichter, a shark biologist at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, told National Geographic, "The fact that none have been caught outside the womb suggests cyclops sharks don't survive long in the wild."
Additional pictures of the preserved shark can be seen here.