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Bull shark fetus confirmed as having two heads

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A bull shark fetus, recovered from the Gulf of Mexico by a Florida Keys fisherman in April of 2011 has made international news and has entered the biology textbooks as being the first confirmed case of dicephalia, or having two distinct heads in the species.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Studied at the Michigan State University, the shark was confirmed as a single shark with two heads, rather than conjoined twins.

Professor Michael Wagner, the university's assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and his team used MRIs to discover that the shark had two distinct heads, hearts and stomachs, with the remainder of the body joining together at the back to form a single tail.

"This is certainly one of those interesting and rarely detected phenomena," Wagner said. "It's good that we have this documented as part of the world's natural history."

The unusual fetus was discovered after a fisherman cut into the uterus of adult shark and found the baby. It was then brought to the marine science department at Florida Keys Community College and then taken to the Michigan University for further analysis.

Similar creatures are believed to have died before being born. "You'll see many more cases of two-headed lizards and snakes," Wagner said. "That's because those organisms are often bred in captivity, and the breeders are more likely to observe the anomalies."

Sounding something from an especially rank SyFy Channel made-for-TV-movie, an Internet search for "two-headed bull shark" last week generated nearly 2.8 million hits, many featuring a startling image taken by Patrick Rice, dean of marine science and technology at Florida Keys Community College.

Shark species like blue sharks and tope sharks have been found with two heads, but the Keys specimen is the first-ever bull shark, according to the study.

Even had it been born alive, the bull shark almost certainly would not have survived long, Wagner said. Animals with such deformities have trouble catching food, and are easy prey for other predators.

While the shark was found in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Wagner cautioned that pollution cannot be confirmed as a cause of the deformity.

"I could see how some people may want to jump to conclusions," he said. "Making that leap is unwarranted. We simply have no evidence to support that cause or any other."

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