In an unusual phenomenon in nature, a miracle baby shark was born in a tank full of female sharks in Sardinia, Italy. Local media outlets reported that the baby shark was a clone of its mom via asexual reproduction, specifically parthenogenesis.
Experts are conducting DNA analysis to see whether the miracle conception was indeed a product of parthenogenesis, which means the shark was the first case of asexual reproduction in the species.
Miracle Baby Shark
A smooth-hound baby shark was born, which is a clone of its mother because they are genetically identical. The baby shark was named 'Ispera' by the aquarium staff.
However, Daily Mail reported that Ispera is not yet a confirmed case of parthenogenesis, even if there might be no other explanation for the miracle. The staff explained that asexual reproduction is favored by certain shark species, especially those living in low-density populations where females have little chance of meeting males to reproduce.
The DNA analysis of the genetic material from the two female sharks will confirm their hypothesis as this is the only way to confirm it. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus of researchers in Italy, which means it might likely take a while to complete it.
What Is Parthenogenesis?
According to J. David Wininger's 2004 Handbook of Stem Cells via Science Direct, parthenogenesis is a form of reproduction in which an egg cell can develop into an embryo even without fertilization. The term is derived from Greek words, which means "virgin birth."
It is a process of a parent cloning itself since the embryo only receives DNA from a single individual. Usually, it happens in lower plants and invertebrates like aphids, bees, and ants. However, it has also been recorded in reptiles, fish, and even birds.
New York Post explains that the polar cells in females may be employed as supplemental DNA to the single ovum during parthenogenesis. This phenomenon was also confirmed in some sharks, such as blacktip sharks, bonnetheads, and zebra sharks. If the hypothesis of the staff of the aquarium is confirmed, Ispera's birth may prompt a fourth species, which is the smooth-hound sharks.
Is Partghenogenesis Possible in Humans?
According to an article in Slate, parthenogenesis in humans never produces viable embryos because unfertilized eggs lack specific genetic instruction from a sperm cell. Without sperm, some genes may be overexpressed, and the embryo will die in just a few days.
Nevertheless, a Japanese team of scientists has found a way to eliminate this problem by removing a pair of material genes. They were able to do it in a viable mouse that was seemingly unaffected even without a paternal gene.
Still, the possibility of a human baby being born due to parthenogenesis is highly unlikely as these two genetic deletions might each have a one in a billion chance of happening, which could also result in problems.