Sharks Have No Baby Daddy

Virgin female shark gave birth to two babies

Wikipedia Commons

As Maury Povich would say, "You are not the father!"

In fact, no one is.

Baby sharks, known as pups, that are born to virgin mothers can survive long term, according to new research by a Field Museum team, published today in the Journal of Heredity.

In 2002, two female pups were born to a white-spotted bamboo shark at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, Michigan.

Dr. Kevin Feldheim, manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution at the Field Museum, led the genetic analysis.

"Examination of highly variable sections of the genome prove that these young sharks had no father," Feldheim said in a press release. "These findings are remarkable because they tell us that some female sharks can produce litters of offspring without ever having mated with a male."

This virginal conception—or parthenogenesis—has actually been seen in two other shark species, but this is the first time the offspring survived. The two pups are still alive and well over seven years later.

While it is impossible to determine how often, if at all, this happens in the wild, this discovery could have major genetic and species-survival significance. A female bamboo shark could potentially produce offspring without a male if necessary, in order to keep the species alive.

"Sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years," said Douglas Sweet, who formerly worked at the Detroit aquarium. "I suspect they have some pretty interesting survival strategies that we are only now becoming aware of."

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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