I only know one thing about the natural world for certain: it’s fucking crazy. Crazy fucking shit happens all the time like you wouldn’t believe. Weird insects are doing weird shit. Weird birds are doing weird shit. There are things on the ocean floor doing weirder shit than you can imagine, every goddamn day.
You’d think marine biologists would have a pretty good grip on what shit is or is not crazy, but even they are stumped by a Queensland leopard shark named Leonie who managed to reproduce asexually.
Leonie, who calls Townsville‘s Reef HQ home, managed to poop out (scientific term) three eggs in April of last year, despite not having had any contact with any male sharks since 2013.
Findings published in ‘Scientific Reports‘ (it sounds fake but it’s a real journal, I promise) only just confirmed that Leonie managed to this incredible feat without any assistance from any dude, much like as described in the song ‘Independent Women‘ by Destiny’s Child.
All of Leonie’s bits were completely free from male shark sperm throughout the entire babymaking process, which marks the first time that a shark has ever been observed switching to asexual reproduction after having previously given birth to shark pups as part of a two-shark job.
Half a dozen other cases of asexual reproduction (also known as parthenogenesis) in sharks have been observed, but only in sharks that have never before mated and live in an environment without a breeding partner.
In a process that I don’t even pretend to understand at all, the pups have only half the genetic material of their mother, meaning the other half comes from whatever the shark equivalent of God is? I guess? What I’m saying is, Leonie’s children are all Shark Jesus.
Understandably, the folks at the aquarium are pretty chuffed. From senior aquarist (a real word) Hamish Tristram:
“We are absolutely stunned that it happened and so excited by the whole process.”
Wouldn’t you be?
Photo: Matthew Field.