We as humans enjoy conjuring up fantastical stories and legends. In the 8th century BC, Homer wrote about cyclopes in his epic poem “The Odyssey” — but did he know that he was writing about a real medical condition?

I never knew that cyclopes existed outside of stories, but it turns out that “cyclopia” is a real birth defect that occurs in both humans and animals. Cyclopia happens when the orbits of the eyes fail to develop into two spheres, causing a single eye to form in the center of the face.

Cyclopia occurs in as many as 1 in 200 miscarried fetuses. Like the eye, the brain is often fused as well, and fails to develop into separate hemispheres.

Fetuses with cyclopia usually miscarry, but on the rare occasion that they survive until birth, they die within a few hours or days.

Causes of death vary, but suffocation due to lack of a mouth or an underdeveloped respiratory system is common. In the case below, the fetus was preserved for study.

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As if cyclopia wasn’t already strange enough, the condition is often accompanied by a “proboscis anomaly,” which presents as a tube-like structure in the middle of the face. Sometimes (though not in this example) a nose and nostrils also develop.

Cyclopia doesn’t just affect humans. It’s estimated that it occurs in as many as 1 out of every 16,000 animal births. It’s been observed in sharks, cats, lambs, pigs, and even this horse skull that dates back to 1841.

Like humans, animals with cyclopia often die in the womb or soon after birth. Scientists preserve what they can for study.

Read More: The Elephant Man Lived With This Condition, But He’s Not The Only One

This child is only hours old, but it seems to be aware that something is very wrong. Sadly, it died a little later.

To learn more about cyclopia, check out this video. The child it features was born without a mouth and suffocated instantly at birth.

Well, I’m thoroughly disturbed. That’s enough internet for me today!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/cyclopia/