No one knew what to make of the above fish that was caught about a mile off shore of Los Cabos, Mexico last week, which is the latest in a string of nightmarish creatures to be pulled from the depths of the ocean. Obviously, what it looks like is a skinned raw chicken with a penis for a head; or as our friends over at BroBible surmised, “a cross between one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and those little Red Hots candies.”
Shortly after photos of the shark were posted on the Pisces Sportfishing Fleet’s Facebook page, however, it was determined that the shark was likely a swell shark — a kind of shark characterized by its ability to swallow water and appear larger to predators — afflicted with a pigmentation condition.
The point of contention in identifying the creature boiled down to the number of gills. While all sharks possess between five and seven gills, this one only had three. But as it turns out, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for that.
“Sometimes on the more bottom-dwelling sharks some of the gill slits are smaller or really compressed together, so that may explain the weird number of gill slits. Or it could be a developmental anomaly,” he told me.
When Bangley first saw photos of shark being circulated on Twitter, he tentatively identified the mysterious specimen as a swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum), suggesting that it could be albino, or unusually light-colored.
So just your garden variety developmental anomaly, good to know! Hopefully these sharks won’t continue to anomaly into growing lungs or legs and just stay put right where they are.