In a puzzling turn of events, a stingray at an aquarium in North Carolina is expecting to give birth despite there being no male in her tank. The Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team Ecco in Hendersonville reported that the stingray developed eggs, leading to concerns that she may have cancer. However, after an ultrasound, the lab’s executive director concluded that the growths were indeed eggs.
One possible explanation for this pregnancy is parthenogenesis, a process in which a female can produce an embryo asexually without an egg being fertilized with sperm. This survival mechanism occurs when no males are present and is a way to preserve the species. For example, it could occur in an aquarium or secluded area of the deep sea where males are absent.
However, scientists have developed another theory after noticing bite marks on the stingray. It is possible that a male shark mated with the stingray and she is currently pregnant with two to three pups. Genetic tests will need to be conducted after the birth to confirm this theory.
As sharks and stingrays are closely related taxonomically, interbreeding between the two species is theoretically possible. The staff at the aquarium is expecting the stingray to give birth at any moment and plans to provide updates on their website and Facebook page.