Virgin Birth Record Broken By Zebra Shark
by Charles Choi
She may be confined to a desert hotel, and far from any males, but a zebra shark named Zebedee is record-breakingly fertile. The female shark, which lives in a restaurant aquarium in Dubai's Burj Al Arab, has experienced four straight years of “virgin births”—a feat never before documented among sharks, according to marine biologist David Robinson.
Experts at the resort—billed as the world’s most luxurious—had seen Zebedee lay eggs before, but had assumed they held no offspring, because she is never in the presence of any male zebra sharks. Hotel staff first discovered she was reproducing asexually in 2007.
Zebedee is reproducing parthenogenetically, meaning that embryos are developing from eggs unfertilized by male sperm. Although her offspring are genetically very similar to her, they aren’t identical clones, since her DNA is recombined during the reproductive process. Virgin births are known among many invertebrates and a variety of vertebrates, including hammerhead, blacktip, and bamboo sharks…
(read more: National Geo) (photo: Rodger Klein)