6-foot bull shark with only one eye caught off Bahamas by researchers
(Mark Price/Charlotte Observer) - Sharks are known to have big, ugly scars, but scientists working in the Bahamas say they came across something unexpected while studying a 6-foot-5-inch bull shark: It was missing an eye.
Researcher James Sulikowski says the team noticed the defect while measuring the shark in the waters off Tiger Beach.
Photos taken alongside the research boat show the male shark had a small hole where the eye had been, but it resembled a nostril more than a eye socket.
“The eye socket was completely covered with skin,” Sulikowski said in a Facebook post. “Not sure how are why he lost it, but it didn’t seem to make him less fit. It is so amazing how resilient sharks are!”
Sulikowski, who is based out of Arizona State University, didn’t speculate what might have happened to the one-eyed shark.
Male sharks are known to bite each while competing during mating season, and females are known to bite males while rejecting poorly timed sexual advances, McClatchy News reported in 2019.
“There wasn’t a lot of damage around the eye so it healed really well,” Sulikowski told McClatchy News in an email.
“The loss of an eye did not appear to affect the shark’s fitness or ability to hunt. Sharks in general use all of their senses to find prey, so having one less eye probably isn’t that big of a deal in the overall perspective of survival.”
Bull sharks grow up to more than 11 feet, and are known for being aggressive and living “near high-population areas like tropical shorelines,” according to National Geographic. They have a “pugnacious disposition and a tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking,” the site says.
The one-eyed shark was fitted with a National Marine Fisheries tag and released in December as part of an project involving the Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab and the University of Miami. The predator was one of several species tagged during the expedition, including tiger sharks, nurse sharks and hammerhead sharks, according to a Facebook post.
Sulikowski has been searching for the nursery grounds of coastal sharks, including putting transmitters (called Birth Tags) inside the uterus of some pregnant sharks.