Bizarre Two-Headed Shark Embryo Discovered By Spanish Scientists

Posted: Oct 25 2016, 1:45pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 25 2016, 1:53pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Bizarre Two-Headed Shark Embryo Discovered in Spain
This two-headed shark embryo discovered in northeast Altantic is the first of its kind. Credit: Journal of Fish Biology
 

This is the first two-headed shark embryo belonging to oviparous or egg-lying shark species

Atlantic sawtail catshark is an extremely rare and little-known species of catshark. Only a limited number of this kind of sharks are found in northeastern Atlantic Ocean, at the depth of 400 to 600 meters. 

Recently, a team of biologists from University of Malaga in Spain was examining embryos of Atlantic sawtail catshark for understanding their cardiovascular system when they found an embryo with very unique features. The embryo had two heads with each having its own separate organs or body parts including mouth, eyes, brains and gill openings on each side. 

“There were two hearts, two oesophaguses, two stomachs, two livers, but a single intestine with a spiral valve.” Authors wrote in the Journal of Fish Biology

The condition of having two heads or dicephaly is extremely rare both in humans and animals. When it comes to sharks, dicephaly has been observed in ovoviviparous (when eggs are hatched within the body of the parent) or viviparous (giving live birth rather than hatching from eggs) before but it is probably the first time when two-headed shark discovered from an egg-lying shark species. This discovery reflects that dicephaly in sharks may not be as rare as previously thought. 

“We see two-headed sharks occasionally. It’s an anomaly, caused by a genetic misfire.”  George Burgess, director of the Florida program for shark research at the Florida Museum Natural History told National Geographic.

Though a handful of dicephalous sharks have been reported before but surprisingly scientists have never seen an adult two-headed sharks swimming across the ocean. There can be a number of reasons why two-headed sharks never survive to adulthood like they might have difficulty in swimming or digesting food or they may got eaten while they were still embryos. 

“Survival after birth may occur, but would likely be very brief. It is unclear whether the two heads will preclude swimming and prey capture and whether joined internal organs will function adequately.” Michelle Huepel, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science told Hakai Magazine. 

The newfound two-headed shark embryo will also not reach to adulthood as it has been euthanized and preserved for further study. The discovery may provide insight into what exactly causes dicephaly in sharks.

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