A female stingray's solo pregnancy at a North Carolina aquarium has sparked confusion, prompting efforts to unravel the mystery.
Situated in Hendersonville, 103 miles west of Charlotte, The Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team Ecco faces an intriguing situation. Staff at the facility report that a female stingray is pregnant, yet there's a puzzling complication: the aquarium has no male stingrays.
How could the female stingray become pregnant without a male mate?
Two potential explanations exist for this uncommon pregnancy.
Asexual Reproduction is Prevalent among Stingrays
Studies have demonstrated that animals, particularly stingrays, possess the ability to reproduce asexually when there is a lack of reproductive opportunities for their species.
Dr. April Smith, executive director of the North Carolina Science Trail, explained in a blog post, "First, you should know that parthenogenesis is asexual reproduction of an organism in which a female produces an embryo without a male present to fertilize the egg."
"This means the offspring are, typically, all female, and this occurs in a situation where there are no males present (i.e., zoo/aquarium usually, or perhaps a secluded natural environment like the deep sea). It’s a survival mechanism that allows for the preservation of a species."
Female Stingray could have been Impregnated by a Male Shark
The Hendersonville aquarium informed FOX Carolina that they initially feared their female stingray, named "Charlotte," might have had cancer due to swelling.
To confirm or dismiss their concerns, an ultrasound was performed, revealing that the multiple growths within her body were indeed confirmed to be eggs.
The aquarium discovered bite marks on Charlotte, a common indication left by mating sharks.
In July 2023, two juvenile white-spot bamboo sharks were introduced into Charlotte's tank.
“We have definitive video of the most current ultrasound showing two if not three pups,” Team Ecco told FOX Carolina. “DNA will need to be done after the pups’ birth – unless we have visual cues about a mixed breed.”
The aquarium has confirmed that Charlotte is expected to give birth soon.