Lonely Female Shark Fights The Patriarchy And Gets Pregnant Without Partner

Meet the single mum shark who don't need no man.

Lonely Shark Gets Pregnant Without Partner

by Katie Russell |
Published on

Three years ago, a young female named Leonie was abandoned by her partner. He left without a goodbye, not even to their offspring. It’s a story many of us can relate to, but with one key difference: Leonie is a shark.

How did Leonie deal with this news? Did she go into a Bridget Jones-style slump and eat nothing but the shark equivalent of Ben & Jerry’s for the rest of her life? Absolutely not. Instead, this leopard shark has defied all the odds and given birth again, despite being celibate for three years.

This didn’t happen overnight. After her partner was removed from the aquarium in 2012, Leonie continued to produce unfertilised eggs. Two years later, staff found there were embryos starting to form in these eggs but none of them survived. Then in 2016 more fertilised eggs were discovered and three of these hatched.

Scientists were shocked. Initially, they assumed Leonie had somehow stored sperm from her previous partner over the years. But Dr Christine Dudgeon, who led the study for the University of Queensland’s School of Biomedical Sciences, told The Independent ‘We examined the DNA of the eggs from the offspring produced from the last mating season and followed the removal of male and could see that the DNA signatures changed.’

The DNA tests showed that the newborns only carried Leonie’s cells, meaning this shark switched from sexual to asexual reproduction. Dr Christine Dudgeon explained to The Independent that this was because ‘she adapted to the circumstances.’ Ah, the beauty of evolution.

And it seems that this special power won’t die with Leonie. One of Leonie’s pups, who was also the offspring of the male partner, gave birth in June 2016 without any male input. The impact of this goes way beyond this small (slightly weird) family. Dr Dudgeon claims the switch to asexual reproduction ‘could save the species’, since the leopard shark is an endangered animal.

To quote Ellen Pompeo (aka Grey's Anatomy's Dr Meredith) 'It's amazing how much you get done without a penis'.

Liked this? You might also be interested in:

This Giant Tortoise's Sexploits Saved His Species From Extinction

Meet The Goat Whose Anxiety Only Goes Away When She's Wearing A Duck Costume

This Cat Meditation Video Is The Perfect Distraction From This Crazy, Crazy World

Follow Katie on Twitter @KatieRussell_16

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us