Second virgin birth in sharks is jaws dropper
October 09, 2008 - Daily News
By Dave Goldiner
It's true - you may not really need a man.
A female shark has become pregnant without contact with a male, the second confirmed case of a so-called virgin birth among the feared aquatic predators, scientists said Friday.
ANIMAL KINGDOM ODDITIES
"The first case was no fluke," said Demian Chapman, a shark scientist at Stony Brook University on Long Island. "It is quite possible this is something female sharks of many species can do on occasion."
An Atlantic blacktip shark named Tidbit became pregnant even though there had not been any male sharks in her tank at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach for more than eight years.
Scientists didn't even know the shark was going to give birth until she died and marine biologists doing a necropsy found a 10-inch-long fetus in Tidbit's uterus.
"Sadness turned to surprise ... when we found that she was pregnant," said aquarium curator Beth Firchau.
The findings will be published today in the Journal of Fish Biology.
Scientists last year identified the same phenomenon in a hammerhead shark that gave birth even though she had had no contact with male sharks for at least three years.
Scientists have largely assumed these cases were the result of long-term sperm storage by females after mating with males. Virgin birth is the more probable explanation. DNA testing is underway to confirm it in additional sharks.