Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Parthenogenesis in Shark Isolation: The Mysterious Case of a Female Stingray’s Pregnancy Without Male Contact Beyond Sharks

Parthenogenesis in Shark Isolation: The Mysterious Case of a Female Stingray’s Pregnancy Without Male Contact Beyond Sharks

Science News

undefined
Carcharodon carcharias Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa.

Hendersonville, NC – In a remarkable display of nature’s wonders, a female round stingray named Charlotte, residing at the Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO, is set to give birth in a rare instance of parthenogenesis. This phenomenon has sparked intrigue and excitement in the scientific community and beyond.

Charlotte, a resident of a 2,200-gallon tank in Hendersonville, North Carolina, has baffled her caretakers with an unexpected pregnancy, despite the absence of a male stingray in her habitat. Instead, her tank-mates are two young male sharks, leading to initial speculation about interspecies reproduction. However, the truth is even more fascinating.

Parthenogenesis, a biological process where a female reproduces without the genetic contribution of a male, is the force behind Charlotte’s impending motherhood.

Drawing of shark head.
Electromagnetic field receptors (ampullae of Lorenzini) and motion detecting canals in the head of a shark.

This process, while complex, involves the utilization of the female’s own egg and additional polar cells to initiate reproduction. While rare, parthenogenesis is observed in some species of fish, birds, and lizards.

Dr. Kady Lyons, a research scientist in Georgia, expressed her awe at this occurrence, noting that it’s the first reported case of a round stingray undergoing parthenogenesis. “Nature has its ways of making such events possible,” remarked Lyons, who is not directly affiliated with the Aquarium and Shark Lab.

Drawing of a shark labeling major anatomical features, including mouth, snout, nostril, eye, spiracle, dorsal fin spine, caudal keel, clasper, labial furrows, gill openings, precaudal pit and fins: first and second dorsal, anal, pectoral, caudal and pelvic

General anatomical features of sharks.

Initially, Charlotte’s caretakers observed injuries on her body, mistakenly attributing them to shark mating activity. Concerns about a potential tumor arose when they noticed a bump. However, tests and an ultrasound revealed the unexpected truth: Charlotte was pregnant with three or four pups.

Brenda Ramer, the executive director of the Shark Lab, shared her team’s astonishment at the discovery. The revelation was so unexpected that it initially sparked rumors and viral headlines about a possible shark-ray mating, a biological impossibility given the vast evolutionary divergence between the two species.

undefined
General anatomical features of stingrays.

As Charlotte approaches the end of her pregnancy, the aquarium staff is vigilantly monitoring her, ready to provide care for the newborn pups. Round stingrays, like many shark species, give birth to live young. The team is preparing a special nursery tank to ensure the well-being of the new arrivals.

Kinsley Boyette, assistant director of the Aquarium and Shark Lab, expressed the team’s eagerness to witness the birth. “Everyone is waiting with bated breath,” Boyette said in a statement to the Hendersonville Times-News. “We’re all ready to welcome these miraculous pups into the world and ensure their safety in their new environment.”

This extraordinary event at the Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO highlights the endless mysteries and marvels of the natural world, reminding us that nature often has surprises in store.

Photo of 12 centimetres (4.7 in) egg case adjacent to ruler, the egg case is a brown ovalish shape, with a spiral band running around it from top to bottom.

The spiral egg case of a Port Jackson shark.

Parthenogenesis in Shark Isolation: The Mysterious Case of a Female Stingray’s Pregnancy Without Male Contact Beyond Sharks