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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Scientists Confirm Virgin Birth

Researchers confirmed that hammerhead sharks can give virgin births, also known as parthenogenesis.  Though this phenomenon had been seen in bony fish, this is the first confirmed event from a cartilaginous fish.  The tests were carried out on the pup of a captive shark born in captivity in 2001 in the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska.

Working with DNA from the offspring of a captive female hammerhead shark, scientists authenticated a complete lack of paternal DNA, meaning the hammerhead shark gave a virgin birth.  Researchers fear this could further harm shark populations, as parthenogenesis results in less diversity amongst the population, which could affect the species' survivability.  The theory is that sharks are resorting to parthenogenesis because they are unable to find suitable sexual partners.

My take on it is that it's very possible the virgin shark birth was simply an anomaly.  After all, if it is possible, then the odds are overwhelming that it has and does happen from time to time.  And, if the process is more common in bony fish, it's not like this would be the Second Coming of the fish world; it would simply be a rare occurrence.  Parthenogenesis is known to occur in lower animals, such as bees and ants.

Sadly, the pup shark was killed by stingrays before zookeepers could remove it from the tank.

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