Record of a two-headed embryo of Galeus atlanticus and review of the literature

paperPublished online on 09. October 2016

Dicephalous v. diprosopus sharks: record of a two-headed embryo of Galeus atlanticus and review of the literature

V. Sans-Coma, C. Rodríguez, M. A. López-Unzu, M. Lorenzale, B. Fernández, L. Vida, A. C. Durán


As far as is known, this paper gives the first description of a two-headed shark embryo belonging to an oviparous species, Galeus atlanticus (Carcharhiniformes: Scyliorhinidae). The specimen was detected among 797 embryos intended for cardiovascular studies, which represents a defect incidence of 0·13%. Each head had a mouth, two eyes, a brain, a notochord and five gill openings on each side. The two heads fused behind the gills. On the single body, there were four anticipated dorsal fins, two anterior, right and left and two posterior, right and left. Ventrally, the specimen possessed two pairs of pectoral fins, a pair of pelvic fins and one anal fin. Two adjacent notochords, two neural tubes and two dorsal aortas ran along the body, which bent 180° at its posterior portion. There were two hearts, two oesophaguses, two stomachs, two livers, but a single intestine with a spiral valve. Previous reports of conjoined twins in sharks are scarce and only refer to oviparous and ovoviviparous species. Seven dicephalous sharks reported so far were similar to the specimen described here, namely, with two totally separated heads on one body. Instead, only one case of diprosopus shark has been reported; it had a single body and a single head with partial duplication of the face. Two further cases described in the literature as dicephalous or simply as abnormal sharks should be better regarded as diprosopus, while another three cases, also considered dicephalous, showed a mixture of characteristics of diprosopia and dicephalia.

Journal of Fish Biology. doi: 10.1111/jfb.13175



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