Virgin birth? It’s actually been observed in about 80 vertebrate species, and most recently, in sharks

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Credit: Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures/National Geographic
Credit: Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures/National Geographic

Scientists say a rare shark “virgin birth” may be the first of its kind after a baby shark was born in an all-female tank in an Italian aquarium.

The baby smoothhound shark, named Ispera, which means hope in Sardianian, was born at the Acquario di Cala Gonone in Sardinia, Italy, according to Italian outlet AGI.

Its mother had spent ten years living in a tank with one other female, the outlet said, and scientists suspect the newborn could be the first documented case of shark parthenogenesis in that species.

Parthenogenesis is a rare phenomenon where an egg develops into an embryo without being fertilized by a sperm.

The process has been observed in more than 80 vertebrate species, according to Live Science, including sharks, fish, and reptiles.

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Researcher Christine Dudgeon from the University of Queensland in Australia told Live Science how parthenogenesis worked.

“Rather than combining with a sperm cell to make an embryo, [the egg cell] combines with a polar body, which is essentially another cell that is produced at the same time that the egg cell is produced and has the complementary DNA,” Dudgeon told Live Science.

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