Shark pups born to virgin mothers can survive over the long-term, according to new research published Jan. 25, 2010 in the Journal of Heredity. The study shows for the first time that some virgin births can result in viable offspring.
Genetic analysis led by a Field Museum scientist working with numerous colleagues has confirmed the first known case of a virgin female shark producing multiple offspring that survived. Two daughters of the white-spotted bamboo shark are now more than five years old. Earlier research proved that reproduction occurred in two other shark species without aid of male sperm, a phenomenon called parthenogenesis, but the offspring did not survive in those cases.
Dr. Kevin Feldheim, manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution at the Field Museum, analyzed the sharks' genetic material to rule out any paternal reproduction assistance.
"Examination of highly variable sections of the genome prove that these young sharks had no father," Feldheim said. "These findings are remarkable because they tell us that some female sharks can produce litters of offspring without ever having mated with a male.
"We compared several sections of the genome between two of the young sharks and their mother. It turned out that all the genetic material in each of the young ones came from the mother, proving there was no father."
Although the shark mother was kept in a tank at the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit where only another female of a different but related species resided, genetic testing was required to rule out the possibility that the female shark could have encountered male sperm earlier in her life.
A second analysis using more general techniques to examine more than a hundred additional regions of the genome was performed by San Fitzpatrick, Ph.D. Student, and Dr. Paulo Prodhl, head of the Fish Genetics and Molecular Ecology Laboratory, of Queen's University in
|Contact: Nancy O'Shea|
Stony Brook University