Zebra Shark at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium Had Offspring Through Virgin Birth

Shedd's zebra shark gives birth via rare parthenogenesis or 'virgin birth'

Shedd’s zebra shark gives birth via rare parthenogenesis or ‘virgin birth’

shed aquarium

A study found that a zebra shark at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium reproduces some of its offspring through “virgin births.”

The study, published in the Journal of Fish Biology, focused on zebra sharks born in the Shedd Aquarium, according to a press release.

The aquarium began to see success in breeding in 2004.

“We’ve also started genetic testing to confirm which of the sharks are the parents of the pups,” Lise Watson, deputy director of animal operations and habitats at Shedd Aquarium, said in a press release. she said.

Watson is one of the authors of the study.

“By verifying the offspring’s ancestry, we can make healthier decisions about future breeding efforts to maintain maximum genetic diversity,” Watson said.

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According to the press release, Shedd’s Wild Reef exhibit includes a large floor-to-ceiling habitat containing a variety of sharks, including zebra sharks.

What was even weirder about the discovery was that the shark named Bubbles was surrounded by three male sharks that she could choose as mates, according to ABC Chicago.

But in 2008, analysis of the DNA of Bubbles’ shark pups showed that he did not match any of the male sharks in the enclosure.

“But they did match up with the female that laid the eggs,” said Kevin Feldheim, a researcher at the Chicago Field Museum, who is also one of the study’s co-authors.

According to the press release, the process of parthenogenesis is common for animals such as starfish, sea worms and stick insects, but rare among vertebrates.

“We’ve known for several years that parthenogenesis occurs in animals like sharks, but some aspects are unknown, such as why it happens and what triggers it,” Feldheim said. Said.

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The team at Shedd Aquarium were surprised by their findings.

“This news highlights exactly why regular, ongoing genetic testing of offspring is important,” Watson said.

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While the discovery is interesting, ultimately offspring from virgin birth don’t live long.

And Bubbles’ offspring survived only a few months.

According to Feldheim, this is the second known case of sharks being born through parthenogenesis even with healthy mates. The other example was at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

“This discovery puts a key to what we think we know about how and why parthenogenesis happens, and illustrates an important aspect of science: we are constantly learning,” he added.

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