An albino, one-eyed shark fetus removed from a pregnant bull shark captured recently in the Sea of Cortez was one of 10 babies inside the large predator. All others were normal in color and appearance.
A story with very few details went viral during the past week, mainly because one photo (at right) revealed a white, three-foot-long shark with what appeared to be a single eye perfectly centered in its head, just above the mouth.
Skeptics abounded. One Southern California-based scientist jokingly identified the three-foot fetus as "Cycloptomus," believing the photo to be doctored and part of a hoax.
The story became more believable after Felipe Galvan, a prominent Mexican scientist, acknowledged that he had inspected the shark and had even written a paper on the discovery. The paper is under scientific review.
But on Saturday more details emerged. Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, interviewed the fisherman who made the catch southeast of La Paz, Mexico, the capital of Baja California Sur.
Ehrenberg said on the Pisces blog that the mother bull shark was caught on a large hook baited with ballyhoo, tethered to a line beneath a buoy fixed in place by another line anchored by a sand bag. The shark was dead when it was hauled up, long after the set was made near Cerralvo Island.
It was taken ashore and filleted, a process that revealed nine normal pups and the albino, one-eyed fetus.
"The fisherman told me that this one would have been born first, due to the position it was in -- first in line at the exit, but that he doubted that it would have survived," said Ehrenberg, who did not reveal the fisherman's name.
Shark fishing is controversial because so many species are in decline, but fishermen in coastal Baja communities know of no other livelihoods and rely on whatever bounty they can catch to provide for their families.
Said Ehrenberg, a strong proponent of marine conservation: "It's kind of sad to see a female with pups inside killed but this was taken by a commercial fishing skiff and this is how this fisherman makes his living. All parts of the shark are used, including the skin. The meat is salted and sent to mainland Mexico, where it is usually sold as bacalo or "cod."
-- Image is courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing