The Aquarium and Shark Lab in Hendersonville reported that a stingray at the facility became pregnant despite there being no male present in her tank. Initially, the lab’s executive director was concerned that the stingray may have cancer due to her developing eggs. However, an ultrasound confirmed that the growths were indeed eggs.
One possible explanation for the pregnancy is parthenogenesis, a process in which a female can produce an embryo asexually without an egg being fertilized with sperm. This survival mechanism is used by sharks and other species to preserve their numbers when no males are present, such as in an aquarium or remote deep-sea areas.
Scientists have also developed another theory after noticing bite marks on the stingray. The staff at the aquarium suspects that one of the two male sharks in the tank mated with the stingray, resulting in her current pregnancy with two to three pups. However, genetic tests will need to be conducted after birth to confirm this theory.
Sharks and stingrays are closely related taxonomically, making interbreeding between them theoretically possible. The staff at the aquarium is currently monitoring the stingray’s progress and plans to provide updates on their website and Facebook page about any developments regarding her birth and offspring.