It was recently confirmed that a female blacktip shark from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach carried a shark pup with no genetic material from a male shark. This is the second case in which scientists have used DNA testing to verify a “virgin birth” of a shark, the first was reported from a bonnethead shark in Omaha, Nebraska. Shark experts at the National Aquarium are familiar with the studies, but are still very intrigued with the findings.
Fishes Research Specialist at the National Aquarium, Alan Henningsen, believes that this type of birth could be more common in the wild then once thought, and could be in response to declining populations and the reduced encounters with mates. However, these theories are not testable in the wild.
Another of our shark experts, Andy Dehart, agrees with others in saying that this finding will not be a fix for the falling shark population. In both cases of parthenogenesis in aquariums there was only one pup. Bonnethead liters are usually 6-8 pups and blacktips generally have 2-4 pups. It is likely these events happened as a survival instinct due to the lack of a male, but even in extreme cases if this were happening in the wild it would not be a successful way for shark populations to reestablish themselves.