Scientists concerned as they believe they've worked out how stingray got pregnant without any mates in her tank
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Scientists have shared their concerns after speculating about an immaculate conception that happened at an aquarium.
Researchers in North Carolina recently discovered that ‘Charlotte the Stringray’ is pregnant - but the twist is, there weren't any male stingrays in the tank.
Staff at the aquarium started to notice that Charlotte was suffering from a swollen tummy, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t a symptom of cancer. After medical tests were done, it showed the stealthy stringray was about to become a sting-mama.
There’s a few ways this theoretically could of happened, though one is admittedly more concerning than the other.
The first, and less worrying, is called parthenogenesis, a super rare process that causes the eggs to develop on their own without any fertilization taking place, which also ends up being a clone of the mother.
The second, more concerning theory, has come about after staff noticed bite marks on Charlotte.
“In mid-July 2023, we moved two one-year-old white spot bamboo males (sharks) into that tank," staff explained.
"There was nothing we could find definitively about their maturation rate, so we did not think there would be an issue.
"We started to notice bite marks on Charlotte, but saw other fish nipping at her, so we moved fish, but the biting continued."
Bite marks can be an indication of mating in sharks, as the fish are known for nipping at each other during the mating season. So, it's possible Charlotte could have been impregnated by a shark.
"With all of the interest and chaos surrounding Charlotte, I am going to ask that you please do not use our platform for wonder and research to make a personal stand or comments to prove yourself and your knowledge to other readers," staff member Brenda Ramer wrote.
"We are a very unique site, with staff and volunteers who work hard to care for our Marine and reptile residents. We research and train and promote science education and adventure.
"Charlotte is a special and lovely fish. We are sharing her experience with you as a way to learn together. It is our gift. Please, do not disqualify our event.
"Just because something has not happened or has not been documented does not make it impossible. Science is discovery. And besides, none of us know what has happened in the big ocean because we are not always there."
The aquarium asking to hold your theories while they work on the scientific truth seems completely fair of them, as they share what next steps they're taking into the fish mystery.
“We have been doing ultrasound on our ray, Charlotte, since September, when she began to swell. We documented multiple 'growths' internally and initially thought she had a cancer," said Ramer.
“I reached out to Dr. Rob Jones, the aquarium vet, and he identified the growths as eggs. We have no male ray. He said there have been few cases of parthenogenesis in rays.
"Once the babies are born, DNA will be taken to determine if they are a mix or fully stingray."