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Nature & Environment

Aquarium mystery as stingray may have been impregnated by a shark

By T.K. Randall
February 14, 2024 · Comment icon 11 comments
Stingray undergoes ultrasound scan.
The stingray undergoing an ultrasound. Image Credit: Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO / Facebook
The enigma began when a lone stingray inexplicably became pregnant despite no other stingrays being present.
Something fishy is afoot at the Aquarium and Shark Lab in Hendersonville, North Carolina - a female stingray has seemingly become pregnant despite having no contact with a male of the species.

The mystery became apparent after Team ECCO, which runs the aquarium, conducted ultrasound scans and discovered that the stingray - named Charlotte - was expecting.

There have been cases where some types of stingray can store sperm for later use, but in this particular instance there were never any males of the species in the tank with her.

So who or what could be responsible ?

As it happens, there is one male animal in the tank - a shark.
So could we soon see the world's first shark-stingray hybrid ? (A sharkray ? A stingshark ?)

"I'm going to stop this misinfo in its tracks," said Dr Noah Bressman, assistant professor of physiology at Salisbury University. "Sharks [and] rays are as distantly related as humans [and] snakes, so a snake knocking up a human is just as likely as a shark knocking up a ray."

If that's true, though, how did the stingray end up pregnant ?

One possibility is parthenogenesis (or 'virgin birth') - a very rare phenomenon in which a ray can produce an embryo without fertilization.

It makes more sense than a shark being responsible, but it would still be very unusual.

We'll likely have to wait until the stingray gives birth before we'll get a definitive answer to the mystery.

Source: IFL Science | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by OverSword 2 months ago
If it's parthenogenesis I won't be surprised.  If it was a shark mating with a ray?!?!?  Holy smokes!
Comment icon #3 Posted by fred_mc 2 months ago
Ok, so Stingray Jesus is about to be born ? .
Comment icon #4 Posted by papageorge1 2 months ago
Just a thought but I know some fish like aquarium clownfish can change sex due to the social situation of the group. I'd guess more the stingray did it him/herself than another species. They may have evolved the ability to reproduce in rare cases of isolation.  Interesting but we will probably quickly forget and never hear the follow-up analysis of the offspring.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Vox 2 months ago
Could there be other rays in other tanks and they share the same or recycled water? Could spermatozoa be floating in the water?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Splendor Solis 2 months ago
The professor that explained how impossible it would be for a shark to impregnate a stingray seemed a little agitated with his answer. Maybe it was him. Maybe he got the stingray pregnant and now he's worried everyone will find out.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Buzz_Light_Year 2 months ago
Hanky Panky in the Tanky 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Dynamo X 2 months ago
No surprise here. Nature always finds a way.  The interesting thing can be finding out how.
Comment icon #9 Posted by ImmortalSupernaturalAlien 2 months ago
“Life, uh, finds a way” - Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park) No but wtf lol
Comment icon #10 Posted by Nicolette 2 months ago
You know sharks are rays closest relative, so if there are bite marks well... i really hope it is a hybrid. More likely pathogenisis tho it wouldn't  be the first time
Comment icon #11 Posted by pallidin 2 months ago
Well, imagine the self-arguments one could get into changing male/female roles. ?

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