While scientists have previously observed “virgin births” in vertebrates such as sharks, rays and reptiles — a reproductive strategy thought to aid survival during periods of isolation — this is the first time a female shark has ever been observed reproducing asexually after previously mating with a male.
It is only the third documented case of a vertebrate of any species switching its reproductive strategy from sexual to asexual.
An eagle ray and a boa constrictor, both held in captivity, are the only other species known to have undergone this unusual biological shift.
After having several litters of pups with her long-term male mate, Leonie was moved into a separate tank by the aquarium as part of an effort to scale back its breeding program.
Christine Dudgeon is a biologist with the University of Queensland who has been working in collaboration with the Reef HQ aquarium for several years. She …