By Maya Palit
After three years of waiting for her mate, a female zebra shark who puts up at Reef HQ aquarium in Queensland, Australia decided that enough’s enough, and gave birth anyway. Scientists are apparently ‘astounded’ because although ‘parthenogenesis’ or ‘virgin births’ have been heard of before, this is the first known instance of a female shark giving birth asexually despite having had a mate in the past.
Leonie had many litters of ‘pups’ but was then moved into a separate tank, because the aquarium was trying to cut back on breeding numbers. But they had another thing coming, when Leonie laid three eggs and gave birth to baby sharks. According to a biologist at the University of Queensland, the initial assumption was that Leonie was storing sperm, but she was clearly not about that life, and the biologists changed their minds after tests revealed that the pups were carrying only Leonie’s DNA. Zebra sharks are an endangered species, so Leonie’s self-sufficiency can only come as good news.