Baffled aquarium staff believe shark impregnated stingray set to give birth with no mate

Researchers at the Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO in Hendersonville, North Carolina, are puzzled by the unexpected pregnancy of a stingray named Charlotte, WRAL in Raleigh reported.

Despite the absence of male stingrays at the facility, Charlotte is pregnant, leaving aquarium staff bewildered. Initially fearing a potential health issue such as cancer due to swelling observed in September, staff were surprised to discover the true cause upon examination.

The impending birth raises questions about how Charlotte became pregnant, with researchers contemplating two potential scenarios. One possibility is parthenogenesis, an exceedingly rare process where eggs develop autonomously, resulting in a clone of the mother.

Alternatively, Charlotte may have engaged in reproductive activities with one of the younger male sharks introduced to the tank in July, a theory supported by bite marks found on her fin edges.

“In mid-July 2023, we moved two 1-year-old white spot bamboo males [sharks] into that tank. There was nothing we could find definitively about their maturation rate, so we did not think there would be an issue,” Brenda Ramer, the aquarium’s founder and executive director said, adding, “We started to notice bite marks on Charlotte, but saw other fish nipping at her, so we moved fish, but the biting continued.”

Charlotte is expected to give birth to up to four pups imminently, prompting anticipation among staff and researchers. DNA testing post-birth is planned to unravel the enigmatic circumstances surrounding the pregnancy.

Regular updates on Charlotte’s pregnancy will be provided on Team ECCO’s website and Facebook page. The standard gestation period for stingrays typically ranges from three to four months, according to the aquarium.

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