They swim alike, they grin alike, sometimes they even fin alike.
You could lose your mind, and some marine biologists are getting close to it. Two-headed sharks are being seen more often in the world’s oceans. The mutation isn’t restricted to a single species, leading some scientists to hypothesize that a genetic disorder is to blame.
According to National Geographic, “wild sharks’ malformations could come from a variety of factors, including viral infections, metabolic disorders, pollution, or a dwindling gene pool due to overfishing, which leads to inbreeding, and thus genetic abnormalities.”
Stray radiation and environmental factors have been proposed as a possible precursor to the dicephaly, but most scientists have dismissed these theories.
Most two-headed sharks die while, or shortly after being born, so it’s not necessarily a widespread characteristic of a thriving species. As well, some biologists content that the number of two-headed sharks being found isn’t so much alarming as it is overemphasized.
“We see two-headed sharks occasionally,” George Burgess, director of the Florida program for shark research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic. “It’s an anomaly, caused by a genetic misfire. There are lots of different kinds of genetic misfires, and most don’t make it out of the womb.”
Still, such an anomaly is a rare find in nature, and if many more continue to turn up, there may be cause for concern.
“There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of sharks with two heads swimming around: they stand out like a sore thumb, so they get eaten,” Burgess said. “They would have trouble swimming and probably digesting food.”
Learn more about two headed sharks in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.