My Favorite Photos of 2011: Cyclops Shark

With the year rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to do some fun posts to wrap up 2011, so I thought I’d take a look at the year’s best photographs — according to me. These are the pics I liked the most or that affected me in some way that made them memorable. There’s no particular ranking to the photos, and I don’t particularly care what official photographic organizations think of them.

First up is a photo that freaked me out when I first saw it back in June: The cyclopean albino shark fetus. The mysterious, milky mutant instantly went viral. However, this looked SO fake that I couldn’t believe the photo was getting wide distribution; there was no way it could be real, right? A shark’s eyes are located on the sides of its head, so even if it had only one, it wouldn’t be in the middle of its nose on the front of its head, right? The pale thing even resembled a ghost more than a real shark.

But it was real. Turned out that fishermen off the coast of Isla Cerralvo, Mexico, captured a pregnant bull shark, and when its 10 pups were removed, one of them had a single — disturbingly human-looking — eye in the middle of its nose. “Cyclopia” is a real developmental disorder that causes only one eye to develop during gestation. In addition to sharks, the rare affliction has been documented in humans and cats. Analysis showed the the eye was composed of functional optic nerve material, which means the creature would have been able to see. But scientists also insisted the the shark would not have survived long in the wild. I mean, it certainly would have called a lot of attention to itself with a big, nerdy eye!

And maybe that’s what made the photos so creepy: the resemblance to a human eye. In the classic 1975 movie Jaws, professional shark fisherman Quint described the nightmare of a shark’s eyes as seen up close:

You know, the thing about a shark — he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living. Until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white…

Since this creature’s eye is already white, it just looks wrong — aside from resembling a cross-cut hard-boiled egg with a rotten yolk — and it’s in the wrong place on its head. How the %$&^ did it get a person’s eye? One of my favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft, was infamous for overusing the adjective cyclopean to describe otherworldly creatures, landscapes and architecture. I think ol’ Howie would approve of this shark. It’s the stuff of his waterlogged nightmares.

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Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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