Chalk this one up to mysteries of the deep: a female zebra shark in an Australian aquarium has reproduced asexually, giving birth to three baby sharks without the contribution of a man-shark or any male DNA. Get it, single lady.
As the New Scientist reports, lady shark Leonie was matched with a fellow from 1999 to 2012 and gave birth to dozens of offspring before the partners were separated into different tanks and no new dude was introduced into her life. Fast forward to 2016, and despite her isolation and lack of access to a sperm bank, the independent woman still managed to reproduce three baby sharks. Ensuing DNA testing proves that the offspring are Leonie’s own through and through, and don’t retain any residual stored sperm. In other words: single motherhood, for the win.
This is not the first tracked instance of single females in captivity figuring out a way to make kids without a Y chromosome; both an eagle ray and a boa constrictor were seen to have switched from sexual to asexual reproduction, the journal notes, and there are examples of female turkeys, other sharks, and snakes reproducing asexually when they’ve never had a male partner.
Still, Leonie’s new family is giving scientists pause. While the asexual process results in “extreme inbreeding,” according to biomedical scientist Dr. Christine Dudgeon, it’s a survival mechanism that might not be as rare as formerly thought. Just goes to show that like their human counterparts, lady sharks are pretty mysterious creatures.