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Scientists have retracted their claims of finding the first-ever goblin shark in the Mediterranean Sea after others pointed out suspiciously toy-like features. The study published in Mediterranean Marine Science stated that a citizen scientist had provided a low-quality shark photograph. Still, the researchers had not seen or interacted with the specimen directly. Shark experts and marine biologists expressed their skepticism online, questioning the unusual appearance of the photographed specimen, including its rigid fins, completeness, and odd shape of particular body parts. Many marine enthusiasts noted that the specimen appeared more like a figurine than a genuine dead shark. Critics of the record claimed that the photographed shark resembled a plastic toy available for sale on eBay.
After being criticized, the study authors doubled their claims that the specimen was authentic. They suggested that the unusually small specimen might have been a goblin shark embryo with a mouth deformed by ingesting ova in utero. But this argument failed to convince experts in the field, who maintained that the specimen looked more like a toy shark.
Jürgen Pollerspöck, an independent shark researcher and lead author of the November 2022 comment, told Gizmodo that the photographed specimen looked “an awful lot like a toy shark.” Joana Sipe, a scientist studying plastic degradation at Duke University, said she thought the specimen could be a degraded plastic toy. In response to these criticisms, the study authors issued a retraction note stating that they were removing their publications due to remaining uncertainty because they were based on a visual observation by a citizen without a specimen being available.
The controversy highlights the importance of verifying the authenticity of specimens before making bold claims. While discovering a goblin shark in the Mediterranean Sea would have been an exciting development, experts must ensure that any new findings are based on solid evidence. The paper’s retraction shows that the scientific community takes these matters seriously and is willing to correct mistakes when they arise.
However, the controversy also highlights the plastic Pollution problem in the world’s oceans. With marine enthusiasts mistaking a plastic toy for a dead shark, it is clear that plastics have become an integral part of the marine ecosystem, posing a significant threat to marine life. We must take collective action to reduce plastic waste and prevent it from ending up in the oceans. Small steps, such as using reusable bags, water bottles, and straws, can significantly impact. We must also push for policy changes that hold corporations accountable for plastic waste and promote more sustainable practices. We can protect our oceans and the creatures that call them home by working together.
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