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Aquarium: Pregnant stingray could be having clones — or shark babies

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Feb. 12 (UPI) — Workers at a North Carolina aquarium were shocked when a stingray was found to be pregnant, despite her only male companions being a pair of sharks.

The Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO in downtown Hendersonville said staff initially thought the stingray, named Charlotte, might have cancer when they started to notice swelling in September.

Testing showed Charlotte was not only cancer-free, she was pregnant with up to four pups.

Brenda Ramer, founder and executive director of Team ECCO, said officials have only two theories about how Charlotte could have gotten pregnant.

The first possibility is a process called parthenogenesis, in which eggs develop without fertilization and grow into clones of their mother.

Ramer said the aquarium has observed the process in sharks before, but it is far more rare in stingrays.

“It’s a once in a bluest of blue moons experience,” Ramer told WLOS-TV.

Ramer said the other possibility involves a pair of male white spot bamboo sharks named Larry and Moe who were moved into Charlotte’s tank last summer.

“We started to notice bite marks on Charlotte, but saw other fish nipping at her, so we moved fish, but the biting continued,” Ramer said.

She said bite marks can be a sign of mating behavior for sharks, leading to suspicions that Larry or Moe may have had an amorous encounter with the stingray.

“We’re either going to have partho babies or we’re going to have some kind of a potential mixed breed, and we’re waiting for Jeff Goldblum to show up because we are Jurassic Park right now,” Ramer said.

Ramer said DNA tests will be conducted once the pups are born to determine if they are the products of parthenogenesis or something even more bizarre.

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