Today, in shark history, a plucky young zebra shark named Leonie broke all the shark trends by having a litter… without the help of a male shark. Female sharks are really doing it for themselves these days, aren’t they?
Based at the Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville, Australia, Leonie was kept from the loving of a male-shark for years. She did have a mate in her younger years, back in 2012, and they once had a litter together. This led scientists to believe that Leonie had simply been storing sperm from her ex all this time. However, genetics have shown that her new batch of pups are biologically her clones.
“We thought she could be storing sperm; but when we tested the pups and the possible parent sharks using DNA fingerprinting, we found they only had cells from Leonie,” said University of Queensland biologist Christine Dudgeon.
Asexual reproduction is nothing new in the history of the world, but normally it is restricted to plants and invertebrates. Vertebrates, however, are starting to join the asexual bandwagon, as there have been cases of Komodo dragons, wild pit vipers, blacktip sharks, chickens, and turkeys reproducing asexually.
Now, before you start to worry that other animals will evolve to the point of asexual reproduction, it should be noted that it is entirely possible that this happens all the time in the wild and that this is simply the first time it happened to a zebra shark in captivity. What’s more, zebra sharks risk a lot by reproducing asexually. “You lose genetic diversity with generations of asexual reproduction, so we’ll be seeing if these offspring can mate sexually themselves,” Dudgeon continued.
So, remember, do not asexually reproduce without assessing the possible risk of doing so — both for you and your potential clone offspring. And if human women do eventually reach the point where they can biologically have children by themselves, and men become obsolete, remember that as a trusted media personality, I can help gather other men for the salt-mines.