A female zebra shark in an Australian aquarium has astounded scientists by producing live offspring asexually, three years after being separated from her long-term mate.
According to a scientific report, she simply developed the ability to reproduce on her own.
Leonie the shark spent 12 years living with a male at an aquarium in Townsville, Australia, according to Gizmodo. They had 24 pups together.
After that, Leonie was separated from her mate and any other male sharks. Four years later, Leonie suddenly gave birth to three healthy babies.
Christine Dudgeon, a professor at the University of Queensland, noticed this phenomenon.
She first made sure Leonie did not somehow store her partner’s sperm. Then, after a test, Dudgeon found that the pups only carried their mother’s DNA.
Leonie likely achieved asexual reproduction.
According to New Scientist, this is possible for several species that typically reproduce sexually — “certain sharks, turkeys, Komodo dragons, snakes and rays.”
However, asexual reproduction typically only happens with females who have never had a sexual history. This has only happened twice in recorded history — once with a ray, and another with a boa constrictor.
Russell Bonduriansky, a professor at the University of New South Wales, told New Scientist that it’s almost common for some species to switch from sexual reproduction to sexual reproduction — but it’s extremely uncommon for the opposite to occur.
It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability,” Dudgeon told the outlet.
Scientists believe this method is only a temporary way to continue the species until a male is found, so males aren’t totally unnecessary for reproduction just yet.