‘Alien Fish’ Caught Off Cabo San Lucas Was Rare Albino Swell Shark, Experts Say — Sharks Don’t Have Only Three Gill Slits, Conspiracy Theorists Say [Photos]

A bizarre-looking “alien fish” was caught in waters off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, earlier this week. Images of the mysterious, bulbous, white and pink-colored fish reeled from the depths on Tuesday went viral online after they were uploaded to Facebook. The strange appearance of the creature sparked speculation in conspiracy theory circles that an “alien fish” may have been caught off the coast of Mexico. Others speculated that the creature could be a fetus.

But marine biologists intervened and tried to douse wild speculations, saying that the mysterious pink and white creature with a grotesquely distended belly was actually a rare albino specimen of a type of shark called a swell shark.

But conspiracy theorists insisted that the creature was an “alien fish.” They pointed out that the mysterious creature had only three gill slits instead of five to seven gill slits like most normal sharks.

And although experts insisted that the specimen was a swell shark, it remains unexplained why it had only three gill slits.

The “alien fish” was caught alive about a mile offshore in about 370 feet of water by a Chicago angler, Dr. Pescado, during a fishing trip with Jaime Rendon, captain of the Panga.

The startled fishermen photographed the fish before releasing it back to the water. Then they uploaded images of the strange creature to the Facebook page of the Pisces Sportfishing Fleet under the sensational heading “Alien Fish In Cabo?”


The photos uploaded to social media show an “alien-looking” pink and white creature with a swollen belly. Rendon said what struck him most about the creature was its spooky greenish alien eyes and “raspy skin.” The strange creature had three rows of very tiny teeth and stranger still, it had three gill slits on each side of its head, instead of five to seven gills found in most sharks.

“I was really surprised, but what caused most impact were the eyes, so strange.”

According to Rendon, he released the creature back into the water because he thought it might be a rare endangered species.

Pisces Sportfishing Fleet sent the images to marine experts in Mexico. The experts were unanimous that the creature was a swell shark of the species Cephaloscyllium ventriosum.

Peter Thomas Outdoors also sent the images to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Experts at the aquarium confirmed that the creature was an albino or leucistic swell shark, that is, a specimen lacking normal pigmentation.

David A. Ebert, shark expert at California’s Pacific Shark Research Center, also confirmed that the weird-looking specimen was a swell shark belonging to the species Cephaloscyllium Ventriosum.

Ebert told Peter Thomas Outdoors, “This is clearly a swell shark, no doubt about that, and I am pretty certain it’s the species I mentioned.”

Swell sharks are widely distributed in subtropical waters from southern Mexico and central Chile to California, according to experts. They are normally harmless to humans but will defend themselves when provoked.

They defend themselves from predators by filling up or engorging their midsection with air or water until they are about twice normal size. This makes it difficult for predators, such as seals and other sharks, to pull them from crevices, bite, and swallow them.

The engorged belly of a frightened or disturbed swell shark is a distinctive feature that makes it easier to recognize them.

Normal swell sharks have prominent, oval eyes. They have yellowish-brown skin with darker patches. However, juvenile individuals tend to be less pigmented. Adult specimens normally have about 50-60 teeth in the lower and upper jaws.

But this particular specimen was unusual because it had three gill slits instead of five to seven slits.

Although conspiracy theorists claim that the number of slits raises questions about the identification of the creature as a swell shark, experts have noted that sea creatures with bizarre deformities have been found in the past. Some recalled the weird one-eyed (“cyclops”) shark caught in the Sea of Cortez in 2011, which was finally confirmed to be a deformed shark fetus.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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