The birth of a smooth baby missile (Mustelus mustelus), who came into the world against all odds and – apparently – against the most basic laws of nature, caused a stir.
The reason? It’s simple: would you ever have thought that a baby shark could be born in a pool inhabited only by females? Although there are no male sharks in the basin, reproduction did take place, thanks to a phenomenon that has never been recorded in this species in captivity.
image credit: Sergio Pérez González/Wikimedia – Not the actual photo
The baby’s name is Ispera and it is no coincidence that in Sardinian this word means “hope”. The incredible birth took place at the aquarium in Cala Gonone and immediately made a name for itself everywhere. The Mustelus mustelus pond, populated only by females, didn’t seem like the right place for such a thing to happen, but Ispera surprised everyone.
If you are wondering how such a thing was possible, the answer is parthenogenesis. This is a very rare, but not “impossible”, reproductive mechanism that allows females to self-fertilize their eggs through gametic self-mixing.
image credit: Cala Gonone Aquarium / Facebook
Although this phenomenon has been observed and documented in more than 80 vertebrate species, including other sharks, fish, and reptiles, it appears to be the first recorded case of the smooth missile in captivity, experts say. “It’s not easily detected in the wild,” said Demian Chapman, director of the shark and ray conservation program at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Florida, and that’s why we only see it in animals in captivity. “
According to the researcher, parthenogenesis in nature is a kind of “final resource” for the maintenance of the species, carried out by females who cannot find a mate due to various problematic factors, such as the isolation of their group or the impact of human activities on their life and habitat.
The unborn child will therefore inherit 100% of its DNA from its mother, which explains why parthenogenesis only gives birth to female individuals. Although the animals born from this phenomenon may experience some health issues, it seems, at least for now, little Ispera is in excellent condition, and we can only wish her long and happy life!