Fact Check

Cyclops Shark

Photographs show a one-eyed shark fetus?

Published Oct 20, 2011

Claim:   Photographs show a one-eyed shark fetus.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2011]

Came across this "interesting" species of fish on a popular photo entertainment website. I later found a website claiming it's an unborn shark fetus. Still seems kind of fishy . . .


Origins:   The term cyclopia describes a congenital defect in animals characterized by the fusion of the orbits into a single cavity containing one eye. In mid-2011, fisherman Enrique Lucero León was trolling the waters near Cerralvo Island in the Gulf of California and hooked a pregnant dusky shark. Upon cutting open his catch, he discovered ten shark fetuses, one of which was a 22-inch-long cyclopic shark fetus with a single functioning eye in the front of its head.

According to National Geographic:

Once biologist Felipe Galván-Magaña, of the Interdisciplinary Center of Marine Sciences in La Paz, Mexico, and colleague Marcela Bejarano-Álvarez heard about the discovery, the team got León's permission to borrow the shark for research. The scientists then x-rayed the fetus and reviewed previous research on cyclopia in other species to confirm that the find is indeed a cyclops shark.

Cyclops sharks have been documented by scientists a few times before, also as embryos, said Jim Gelsleichter, a shark biologist at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. The fact that none have been caught outside the womb suggests cyclops sharks don't survive long in the wild.

Overall, finding such an unusual animal reinforces that scientists still have a lot to learn, Gelsleichter added.

"It's a humbling experience to realize you ain't seen it all yet."

Last updated:   20 October 2011


    Dell'Amore, Christine.   "One-Eyed Anomaly."

    National Geographic Daily News.   13 October 2011.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags