Scientists say a rare shark “virgin birth” may be the first of its kind after they discovered a baby shark all-female tank at an Italian aquarium.
The baby smoothhound shark, named Ispera (meaning hope in Sardinian), was born at the Acquario di Cala Gonone after its mother had spent ten years living with one other female.
Scientists suspect the newborn could be the first known case of shark parthenogenesis in that species. Parthenogenesis is a rare phenomenon where an egg develops into an embryo without being fertilized by a sperm.
The process has been seen in over 80 species of invertebrates including sharks, fish and reptiles, including in about 15 species of sharks.
While sharks most likely have the ability to do this, the process has been difficult to document in the wild.
According to Demian Chapman, director of the sharks and rays conservation program at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Florida, parthenogenesis might be the last resort for females that cannot find a mate in situations of low population density.
It may also be triggered in captive sharks who are separated from males for long periods of time.
The nature magazine National Geographic reported that there are two types of parthenogenesis: apomixis, a type of cloning common in plants, and automixis, which involves he slight shuffling of a mother’s genes to create offspring similar to the mother but not exact clones.
Process Used to Create Fish May Be Similar to Inbreeding
The ability to create a new fish without males may sound like something that comes in handy, but it comes at a loss of genetic diversity, much as is the case with inbreeding.
“Rather than combining with a sperm cell to make an embryo, [the egg cell] combines with a polar body, which is essentially another cell that is produced at the same time that the egg cell is produced and has the complementary DNA,” researcher Christine Dudgeon told Live Science.
“Parthenogenesis is essentially a form of inbreeding, as the genetic diversity of the offspring is greatly reduced,” she added.
Biologists have reportedly sent DNA samples to a lab to confirm that Ispera the “miracle shark” was born through parthenogenesis, according to reports.
Watch footage of the “Miracle Baby” swimming in its tank here, and thanks for reading!
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