CONFUSION has been circling a recent scientific paper about a rare type of shark – which appears to have come to a head.
The paper has been pulled.
Goblin sharks are elusive deep-sea fish which are typically found in the Mediterranean ocean.
A group of scientists found what they said was a goblin shark that had washed ashore on a Greek beach, which had been announced in the journal Mediterranean Marine Science last year.
According to the scientific paper, the goblin shark was discovered by a man named Giannis Papadakis in August 2020, who had led the shark on a rock and snapped a picture of it.
The paper was seen as a great example of citizens without a formal scientific background helping out professional scientists in research.
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But eventually shark experts around the world started to express doubts about the authenticity of the goblin shark.
Experts then tabled a critique of the paper, to which the original authors hit back with their own justifications.
“It didn’t look right,” David Ebert, author of the book 'Sharks of the World', told the New York Times.
“It’s too small, and its gills don’t look like they’re actually open,” he said, adding that “It doesn’t look natural at all.”
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Ebert and others were cautious because there had been no direct examination of the shark by someone with a formal science background.
The paper was reportedly based solely on a photo and a brief description by Papadakis.
Experts have said the specimen’s lack of teeth, overly rounded fins and low number of gill slits didn't fit the characteristics of a goblin shark.
A photo of a plastic goblin shark toy sold by an Italian toy company, DeAgostini, was then found online.
Experts argue it looks suspiciously similar to the goblin shark found in Greece.
The toy “shows a great similarity to the specimen in the published image,” Jürgen Pollerspöck, an independent shark researcher and a co-author of the report doubting the Greek goblin shark’s authenticity, told the New York Times.
The authors of the original paper then retracted it, as well as their reply to the critique.
Whether or not the shark is legitimate, critics have put blame on the peer review process instead of the scientists and citizen who helped born the paper.
“In my opinion, the problem and responsibility lies with the editor of the journal and the reviewers,” Mr. Pollerspöck said.
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