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Female Zebra Shark Gives Up on Shark Men and Mates With Herself

Zebra shark. Photo: metgokalp/Getty Images

A female zebra shark named Leonie has decided she can and will have it all: After being separated from her long-term male mate for three years, she suddenly became pregnant without the help of a male.

According to CNN, scientists are apparently “astounded” by the development, as this is the first time female sharks have been observed to reproduce asexually after previously reproducing sexually.

Leonie lived at the Reef HQ aquarium in Queensland, Australia, with her male partner from 2006 to 2012. But because she had given birth to several litters with her mate, Leonie was moved to a different tank while the aquarium cut back on breeding, scientists wrote in the journal Scientific Reports. One of Leonie’s female pups, Lolly, was moved to the same tank, and the two ended up laying eggs, even though they were separated from male sharks.

The report’s author Christine Dudgeon, a biologist with the University of Queensland, told CNN that it isn’t unusual for sharks to lay eggs without a male present. “It’s much like a chicken — they lay eggs whether they are fertilized or not, if the conditions are good,” she said. The first time Leonie laid eggs, some of them contained embryos but never hatched. The next year, when both Leonie and Lolly laid eggs, three of Leonie’s eggs and two of Lolly’s eggs turned into live hatchlings.

Female Zebra Shark Gives Birth Without a Male Mate