A two-headed shark gave an Indian fisherman the shock of his life when he found it among his daily catch.
Nitin Patil was fishing the waters off Maharashtra in the West Indies when he
pulled up his catch.
After looking at his net from Satpati, a village in Palghar District, Mr. Patil saw the two-headed creature.
Not knowing how rare the newborn shark was, he took a few photos and then threw them back overboard.
“We don’t eat such small fish, especially sharks. I thought that was strange, but I decided to throw them anyway,” he said.
But he soon learned how unusual a catch was.
Umesh Palekar, another fisherman, said: “We have never seen anything like it.
“We believe that one of the larger sharks gave birth to this double-headed baby shark.”
Dr. KV Akhilesh of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research – Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute – could only imagine two other times such a creature had been found.
“It is a rare report for India,” he said.
“A similar two-headed shark was reported from Gujarat in 1964, and another
1991 from Karnataka.
“Others could have been observed, but were not photographed or collected.”
Scientists believe that a variety of factors could have caused the shark, a spadenosis shark (Scoliodon laticaudus), to have this mutation.
“These finds are so rare that it is difficult to pinpoint a cause for the anomaly,” said marine biologist Swapnil Tandel.
“Genetic or metabolic disorders, viruses, pollution or overfishing could be the possible reasons.”
Whatever caused it, said Dr. Akhilesh, the creature’s chances of survival to adulthood weren’t great.
“The eyes of one head were deformed and there were two first dorsal fins,” he said.
“It’s a very rare chance. All similar two-headed sharks were either embryos or newborns.”
The previous two-headed sharks were a milk shark (Rhizoprionodon acutus) in 1964 and another spadenosis in 1991.
Dr. Akhilesh credited social media for recording these additional sightings.
“We could only find out about it by sharing it on social media,” he said.
“Otherwise it would have been a discarded case.”