Australian female zebra shark Leonie and her daughter Lolly were separatedfrom males three years ago in an effort to slow down the Queensland Reef HQAquarium’s breeding program. However, three years later, both have nowreproduced asexually, resulting in a total of five living offspring.
It isn’t unusual for female zebra sharks to lay eggs even when they haven’tmated with males, and it isn’t unheard of for female zebra sharks to reproducelive offspring asexually. What is unique about this situation, however, is thefact that Leonie had previously mated with a male and switched fromreproducing sexually to reproducing asexually.
According to Hamish Tristram, a senior aquarist with Reef HQ, this is alsopotentially harmful to the future of the species.
Zebra sharks were recently declared an endangered species, so you would thinkthat the ability to reproduce asexually would be beneficial to their species,not detrimental. However, so far, no asexually produced offspring have everbeen able to successfully reproduce offspring of their own, and even if theywere sexually viable, they significantly decrease genetic diversity, which isimportant to a species’ survival. Nonetheless, scientists will be keeping aneye on Leonie’s and Lolly’s parthenogenic offspring until they reach sexualmaturity, just in case.
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