A shark was born in an Italian aquarium. This is the first ‘virgin birth’ in ten years. The birth took place in an all-female aquarium. The baby is also female like all the other sharks. She is a smooth-hound shark named Ispera. Her name literally means “hope” in Maltese. Newsweek reports this could be a “scientific first.”
This phenomenon is unusually rare. In this case, the female sharks self-fertilize their own eggs. This ‘virgin birth’ can only occur in extreme scenarios. Parthenogenesis is the name of this process. However, sharks are not the only species capable of this. Fish and certain reptiles can also do this. Moreover, Live Science states more than 80 species can utilize this function.
Keeping aquatic animals in captivity had led to this discovery. Demian Chapman says it is hard to spot in the wild. Chapman himself has conducted many studies on parthenogenesis in sharks. He is the director of the sharks and rays conservation program. This is at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Florida.
Chapman claims about 15 different shark and ray species can perform this function. However, he is certain that more species can carry out this process. Parthenogenesis only occurs when there is no other option; i.e: as a last resort. Female species will do this when there are no males left. In fact, captivity can trigger this occurrence in certain species. This has to be for long periods of time. It is truly a miracle of nature seeing certain species brave all odds for survival.
On the contrary, this biological function has its own cons. Christine Dudgeon states this process is a form of inbreeding. Therefore, reducing their genetic diversity. Thus, the offspring have a higher mortality rate. In other words, they have a lower chance of survival.
Even so, Ispera is expected to live a normal life. This is regardless of her birth’s conditions. She will remain in captivity with all the other sharks. This news is evidence that sharks can endure the toughest situations!