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Fatherless Sharks

February 15, 2010

A new study finds that the offspring of virgin sharks are surprisingly healthy.


Fatherless sharks. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In recent years, scientists have learned that sharks can have virgin births. That’s called parthenogenesis. But it wasn’t clear that the fatherless sharks could survive to adulthood. Now, Doug Sweet of the Bell Isle Aquarium in Detroit, and Kevin Feldheim of the Field Museum in Chicago, have shown that they can. Feldheim’s team analyzed the DNA of two bamboo sharks born at the aquarium in 2002. Their birth made headlines at the time, because their mother had had no male contact in captivity.

KEVIN FELDHEIM (Institution):
We came along with the genetic work to just show that it was in fact parthenogenesis. Many shark species can store sperm, so it’s possible that sperm storage could explain it.

Feldheim’s group ruled that out. Next, they’d like to find out if fatherless sharks can reproduce the old-fashioned way. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.