She’s Done it Again

Daniel mentioned this story a few years ago: a lone female zebra shark gave birth to offspring without any father being available. That’s right, a virgin birth.

The zebra shark, named Zebedee, lives in an aquarium in Dubai and has never had access to a male of her species. But unlike some other virgins I could mention, this shark was not content to stop at one. So she’s done it again this year. According to the BBC: “A lone zebra shark in a Dubai aquarium has prompted scientific interest after laying eggs for the fourth year in a row which hatch into healthy offspring.” That’s right, this is her fourth clutch of eggs.

From io9:

Warren Baverstock, the aquarium’s curator, says that it’s likely other captive shark species possessed this ability all along, but it was simply assumed that the eggs they laid were duds. This ability to reproduce even in the complete absence of males is likely another example of the remarkable evolutionary toolkit that the various shark species possess. It’s also another way in which sharks are completely unstoppable, invincible killing machines, but I suppose that’s a somewhat less scientific piece of analysis.

Hey, buddy, that’s no way to talk about our new lord and savior. Um… litter of lords and saviors? I could see how this is going to make the resulting religion a little bit confusing.

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  • Andrew Hall

    I am preparing my shrine to celebrate the arrival of these new godly shark beings.

    • Custador

      I for one welcome our new shark overlords!

      • Devysciple

        Meh, those are just the minions of Great Cthulhu, which will rise December 21st :-D

  • mikespeir

    Now, now, ladies, don’t be getting any ideas!

  • Mike Lewinski

    It’s the second chumming!

  • FO

    As awesome as they are, cartilagineous fish badly lost the evolutionary race against boney fish (or whatever you call them in english) basically because the latter outbred them.
    I look forward to a genetic analysis of mother and children (what sex are they?)

    But yeah, what if Jesus had another virgin-birth brother?
    We could have atoned *twice* for our sins!

    • UrsaMinor

      You can’t say that cartilaginous fish lost the evolutionary race against boney fish. They’re still around, and they’re quite successful. That is why their basic design has not changed in 100 million years. It works.

      • JohnMWhite

        Also, don’t they tend to eat the bony fish?

      • FO

        Ok, “lost the evolutionary race” is a very ambiguous expression.
        Let’s say that in terms of total biomass, spread and diversity boney fish rate far better than cartilagineous fish.

        And despite this I for one find cartilagineous fish more awesome than boney ones. ^_^
        (But probably we find them awesome because they are so different than everyday fish)

        • UrsaMinor

          The Japanese are the number one cartilaginous fish aficionados on the planet, but I’m pretty sure it’s because they find them tasty, not awesome. :)

  • Johan

    Aquariums tend to keep the water in the tanks fresh by pumping in seawater. There’s zebra sharks in the ocean outside Dubai. How do we know the aquarium haven’t simply sucked in some sebra shark sperm with the water intake?

    • UrsaMinor

      Ewww! People swim in that ocean!

      • Custador

        I hear the lobsters get out to crap.

    • LRA

      They know because (1) all of the offspring are female and (2) they did a genetic analysis of the offspring.

      • FO

        Whooohoo! Partenogenesis wins! =D

    • Raymond

      In the 80s there was talk of a species of fish that in the absence of males would have offspring, only one problem, the observations of many generations after generations of these guys showed that the gender that was produced were only female fish, never any males. Talk about obsolescence, what if humans eventually develop into that type of species where fertilization by sperm is never necessary? I guess feminism was right all along and it would be fair punishment for the thousands of years of abuse by patriarchical societies who have basically treated women as inferior.
      Look at all the little fishes…..oh….wrong words……look at all the little piggies playing in the dirt….always has clean shirts to play around in…

      • Custador

        There actually is a species of fish which is entirely female. Google it.

  • Lurker111

    Are the eggs haploid or diploid? Does anyone know?

    • UrsaMinor

      The haploid condition in vertebrates is almost always nonviable. The offspring are almost certainly diploid, and therefore the ova must have either retained or acquired a full diploid set of chromosomes. I.e., either normal reductive chromosome division did not occur during gamete formation, or there was a fertilization. The former is very rare but it does happen regularly in some species of parthenogenetic lizards. There is no a priori reason to rule out parthenogenesis in sharks, and either parthenogenesis or cryptic fertilization is much more likely than the production of viable haploid offspring from a normal, unfertilized ovum.

      The quickest way to tell is to do a chromosome squash on a cell sample and count them. A more detailed genetic analysis would tell you if there is genetic material from a donor other than the mother.

  • articulett

    There’s video of the miraculous event here:

    Johan, genetic tests in past years show that the sharks have a double copy of half their mothers genome instead of half from a mom and half from a dad. (They’re half clones; the haploid ova become diploid by chromosome duplication.)

  • RickRay1

    Women will eventually evolve so they will no longer need men to have offspring. A world of only women. Wow, wait ’til the aliens hear of this.

  • joe

    Life want’s to live and will find a way to express itself.

  • Peggy R. Henderson

    So. Maybe Jesus was really a, uh, girl. . .? all that “long hair”? . . .hmmmmm