According to a report from the BBC earlier this week, a researcher working in the Philippines snapped an amazing photograph of a live shark birth in the wild. The once-in-a-lifetime photo was snapped by Attila Kaszo during a 2013 research dive and has recently been published in Coral Reef, the official journal of International Society for Coral Reef Studies.

Live Shark Birth Photo Excites Scientists

Although it has not been conclusively confirmed yet, oceanographic researchers note this may be the only photograph of a live shark birth.

Researchers explain live shark birth photo

“He took the picture of the shark, and when he processed the image and showed it to me, I freaked out,” explained lead researcher Simon Oliver, who also told the BBC that seeing the picture was a highlight of his career.

“We observed a large female pelagic thresher shark swimming back and forth across a cleaning station in an agitated state,” Oliver and Kaszo noted in their article. “We were unable to decipher the cause of the shark’s distress from our observation post 15 m away, although it was evident that cleaner wrasse were taking bites from its pelvic region. We observed the shark for a total of 4 min, during which we took its photograph for identification purposes. The shark then left the cleaning station and was not observed again. Later, when we processed the photograph for analysis, it revealed the head of a pup emerging from the shark’s cloaca.”

Didn’t know what he had

Kaszo commented in an interview that he had taken several hundred images on the research trip to the Philippines and didn’t really know what he had at first. “That picture ended up in my trash folder because it appeared to have a ‘blob’ on it which I thought was a jellyfish” he said. “[I] revisited my trash folder and looked more closely at what I had…Even after I had stared at it for some time I couldn’t reconcile it was a birth, I guess it was just too far-fetched for that. I sent the pic to Simon Oliver who authenticated it, then it went through numerous evaluations and peer reviews.”