Shark Virgin Births Change Everything We Thought We Knew About Reproduction

Life finds a way.


There’s been a virgin birth in the shark world. A captive female white-spotted bamboo shark has reproduced despite genetic tests that show its offspring had no fathers.

Scientists believed the process could only produce infertile offspring, but one of the female offspring repeated the solitary process and gave birth to her own litter. It’s the first time scientists have recorded the phenomenon across two generations, and it’s making them rethink what they thought they knew about parthenogenesis — an asexual reproduction from unfertilized eggs commonly observed in arthropods, rotifers, and some fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

Two new studies, one published in The Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, found that virgin births might actually be a satisfactory alternative to partnering up.

Another study made the reproduction seem even more ordinary, finding 20 snake species that were able to give birth alone.

In an interview with New Scientist, Nicolas Straube, a researcher at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, said the findings imply “that parthenogenesis may be an alternative to sexual reproduction.”

This is all very exciting, but it worries us that scientists are not studying these shark births in conjunction with recent discoveries that the deep sea carnivores love death metal and swim in an active volcano like easing into a hot tub, because taken together that sounds an awful lot like the anti-christ of the animal kingdom.