The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Sharks virgin birth!  (Read 5436 times)

paul.fr

  • Guest
Sharks virgin birth!
« on: 23/05/2007 22:06:35 »
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6681793.stm

Captive shark had 'virgin birth' 
 
The bonnethead is a species in the hammerhead group
Female hammerhead sharks can reproduce without having sex, scientists confirm.
The evidence comes from a shark at Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska which gave birth to a pup in 2001 despite having had no contact with a male.

Genetic tests by a team from Belfast, Nebraska and Florida prove conclusively the young animal possessed no paternal DNA, Biology Letters journal reports.

The type of reproduction exhibited had been seen before in bony fish but never in cartilaginous fish such as sharks.

Parthenogenesis, as this type of reproduction is known, occurs when an egg cell is triggered to develop as an embryo without the addition of any genetic material from a male sperm cell.


See how parthenogenesis takes place
The puzzle over the hammerhead birth was reported widely in 2001, but it is only with the emergence of new DNA profiling techniques that scientists have now been able to show irrefutably what happened.

The investigation of the birth was conducted by the research team from Queen's University Belfast, Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and Henry Doorly Zoo itself.

The scientists say the discovery raises important issues about shark conservation.

In the wild, these animals have come under extreme pressure through overfishing and many species have experienced sharp declines.

If dwindling shark groups resort to parthenogenesis to reproduce because females have difficulty finding mates, this is likely to weaken populations still further, the researchers warn.

The reason is that asexual reproduction reduces genetic diversity and this makes it harder for organisms to adapt - to changed environmental conditions or the emergence of a new disease, for example.

With normal sex, the mixing of maternal and paternal DNA introduces genetic novelty which can give animals new traits that might be advantageous in their new circumstances.

Sex marks

Dr Paulo Prodohl, a co-author on the Biology Letters paper from Queen's School of Biological Sciences, said: "Vertebrates in general have evolved away from parthenogenesis to boost genetic diversity and enhance evolutionary potential.

"The concern for sharks is that not only could we be reducing their numbers but we could be making them less fit as well."

"Our findings will now have to be taken into consideration for any conservation management strategy, especially for overexploited species."

The birth of the hammerhead (of the bonnethead species, Sphyrna tiburo) at Henry Doorly was as tragic as it was puzzling.

The new pup was soon killed by a stingray before keepers could remove it from its tank.

At the time, some theorised that a male tiger shark kept at the zoo could have been the father - but the institution's three bonnethead females had none of the bite marks that are usually inflicted on their gender during shark sex.

Some even suggested that one of the females could have had sex in the wild and stored the sperm in her body - but the three-year period in captivity made this explanation highly unlikely.

The new tests on the dead pup's tissues now show the newborn's DNA only matched up with one of the females - and there was none of any male origin.

Although extremely rare in vertebrates, parthenogenesis (out of the Greek for "virgin birth") occurs in a number of lower animals. Insects such as bees and ants use it to produce their drones, for example.



 Any thoughts or idea's? Some even suggested that one of the females could have had sex in the wild and stored the sperm in her body, was my thinking...but obviously not.


 

Offline Seany

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4209
  • Live your life to the full!
    • View Profile
Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #1 on: 23/05/2007 22:52:54 »
Yes.. I just recently heard about this on the news! Apparently, these are very rare cases, and only occur when the animals are in severe distress. Thus, I think it is the act of humans which is causing this impact on wildlife.. Well, I do not have the right to say that actually. :-\
 

another_someone

  • Guest
Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #2 on: 24/05/2007 00:24:52 »
Yes.. I just recently heard about this on the news! Apparently, these are very rare cases, and only occur when the animals are in severe distress. Thus, I think it is the act of humans which is causing this impact on wildlife.. Well, I do not have the right to say that actually. :-\

Since this occurred to a shark in captivity, if one regards this as a response to stress, then it implies it is the conditions of captivity that are the stress, and since that captivity is controlled by humans, it would imply that if it is a stress response, the humans in this particular case have created the stress.  But, one cannot say very much about the situation where it happens in the wild.

On the other hand, about 15 species of whiptail lizard exclusively reproduce through parthenogenesis.  As far as we are aware, humans had nothing to do with these species reproducing through parthenogenesis (and in fact having no male lizards that could possibly allow sexual reproduction), and the lizards have not died out.

 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #3 on: 24/05/2007 07:21:04 »
Bit of a faux pas on our local news station then. They showed a black tip reef shark.
 

Offline Seany

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4209
  • Live your life to the full!
    • View Profile
Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #4 on: 24/05/2007 19:49:53 »
I heard that it was a Hammer-head Shark.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #5 on: 24/05/2007 23:16:09 »
The bonnethead (also known as the shovelhead shark) is a type of hammerhead. It's a lot smaller than the well-known hammerhead at no more than 1 metre in length.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Sharks virgin birth!
« Reply #5 on: 24/05/2007 23:16:09 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums