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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Holidays

Like a virgin: Shark spawns sans help

An Atlantic blacktip shark spontaneously reproduced without the company of a mate, scientists report in the second documented case of the phenomenon.

Five-foot-long (1.5-meter) Tidbit, the ironically named resident of the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, Va., spawned on her own — no male assistance involved, according to Reuters. Sadly, Tidbit died in May 2007 during a veterinary checkup, before birthing her until-then unknown 10-inch-long shark pup. The case is published in the new issue of the Journal of Fish Biology.

Scientists last year wrote about an asexual hammerhead shark that reproduced on its own, a process called parthenogenesis in which unfertilized eggs divide. Bony fish, reptiles, birds, lizards and Komodo dragons also can reproduce asexually.

Now, the discovery of Tidbit's immaculate misconception "tells us that the original case we documented last year was not some fluke of nature," Demian Chapman, a shark scientist with the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York, told Reuters. "This is something that might be more common than we think it is, and widespread among sharks."

(Image of Atlantic blacktip shark/City of Albuquerque)

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