Parthenogenesis: Female stingrays become pregnant without a male


USACharlotte becomes pregnant without a male – is the father a shark?

The discovery that a female ray is pregnant in a US aquarium has caused joy but also confusion. Because the father is supposed to be a shark.

Benedict Hollenstein

In a US aquarium, a ray mysteriously became pregnant even though there were no males in the tank.

Facebook/Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO

  • An unexpected pregnancy of a stingray poses a mystery.

  • Because there are no male conspecifics living in the aquarium.

  • According to scientists, there are two possibilities that are equally astonishing.

The unexpected solo pregnancy of a female ray has puzzled the staff at an aquarium in the US state of North Carolina. At the Aquarium and Shark Lab in Hendersonville, there are female stingrays but no males.

This is what happens during parthenogenesis

According to biologists, there are two possible reasons why female stingrays are pregnant without a male partner: On the one hand, the latest research suggests that stingrays in particular have the ability to reproduce asexually when there are no or too few males available as possible partners.

In asexual reproduction, also known as parthenogenesis, a female produces embryos without the need for fertilization by a male. Dr. April Smith, executive director of the North Carolina Science Trail, explained in a blog post that parthenogenesis is a survival mechanism that often occurs in zoos or aquariums where there are no males.

Bite wounds support shark theory

Further examination revealed bite wounds on Charlotte, a classic sign of mating activity in sharks. In July 2023, two juvenile white-spotted bamboo sharks were released into Charlotte’s basin. The father of the stingray fetuses could also be a shark.

The aquarium initially suspected a health problem and feared that the swelling of the female ray, named “Charlotte,” indicated cancer. An ultrasound scan then revealed growths in Charlotte’s body, which later turned out to be eggs.

Charlotte is expecting two to three young animals

According to the most recent ultrasound examinations, Charlotte is carrying two or even three young animals. The aquarium plans to conduct DNA testing after birth to determine the ancestry of the offspring if visual evidence doesn’t suggest mixed race anyway. Those responsible for the aquarium expect a birth soon.

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