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How Did a Stingray Get Pregnant Without a Mate?

A 12 to 16-year-old stingray named Charlotte has been found pregnant with three to four pups at the North Carolina Aquarium. According to her caretakers, she was found with multiple shark bites, a possible sign of shark mating. This stingray has not been around male stingrays for roughly eight years due to her being in captivity and the aquarium not having any males. Li Cohen from CBS News finds that this information, combined with the bite marks, leads team members of the aquarium to believe that a shark impregnated the stingray. Charlotte is kept in a tank with two young male sharks, narrowing down the question of who the father is.

However, sharks and rays do not anatomically match up for mating and their DNA makes them too incompatible to produce any offspring. This leads us to our second hypothesis: Charlotte went through parthenogenesis—or asexual reproduction. This entails having a virgin or "miracle" birth. While rays have never been found to go through this process, sharks—who are closely related to rays—have been documented going through it. On February 12th, Scientist Brenda Ramer made a statement.

Charlotte is due within two weeks, the aquarium said on Monday. And whether the father of Charlotte's babies is a shark or just nonexistent, "we have very unique juju going on here," -- Brenda Ramer

The Aquarium has been posting Charlotte updates on their TikTok account, _teamecco_, with fans in the comments predicting that in just over a week, we will have either Stingray Jesus or Shark-Stingrays. Scientists are saying that it is most likely parthenogenesis due to how unlikely and impossible it is for sharks and rays to crossbreed. Georgia Aquarium scientist Kady Lyons publicly announces this information to set the record straight about Shark-Stingray babies. However, if this is a case of parthenogenesis, then it will be the first-ever recorded for this species.

Even though shark bites do indicate signs of possible shark mating, they can also just be marks from a simple attack and not the start of an exciting new chapter in science. So despite many excited fans and spectators, the pros have stated that the odds of a new species are not in our favor. Half shark half stingray babies aside, many people are still on the edge of their seats waiting to see what Charlotte is about to reveal.

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