Baby Shark Born Into All-Female Tank Could Be Scientific First

A smooth-hound shark was recently born into an all-female tank in an Italian aquarium. The birth, said scientists, could be the first recorded asexual birth for the species.

For 10 years, the mother has lived in a tank with one other female at the Acquario di Cala Gonone in Sardinia, Italy, reported Italian outlet AGI. According to the outlet, scientists believe the baby—a female named "Ispera," meaning "hope"—is a clone of its mother born via parthenogenesis.

Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which an egg is formed without fertilization. According to, "the term parthenogenesis is taken from the Greek words parthenos, meaning 'virgin,' and genesis, meaning 'origin.'" Experts believe that more than 2,000 species reproduce parthenogenetically.

When an organism reproduces parthenogenetically, a polar cell is employed to fill the space of a sperm cell.

According to National Geographic, there are two different forms of parthenogenesis: automixis and apomixis. Automixis, which has been documented in sharks, "slightly shuffles the mother's genes to create offspring that are similar to the mother but not exact clones." Offspring born from apomixis are exact clones; however, this form is more common among plants.

The publication further explained that most animals known to reproduce through parthenogenesis are small invertebrates such as wasps, bees, etc. The process has also been observed in more than 80 vertebrates; however, half of those cases have been in fish and lizards.

Scientists long-believed parthenogenesis to be a result of "extreme situations," reported the BBC last year. Because it is hard to observe in the wild, the process has only been documented by animals living in captivity, where there are no other options, as is the case with Ispera's mother.

Still, the process is rare among sharks, which is why scientists were so excited by Ispera.

If DNA tests prove Ispera to be a product of parthenogenesis, she would be the first documented case of a smooth-hound shark being born asexually.

Excited about the news, the aquarium posted a video of Ispera swimming around her tank on social media.

"An incredible pink ribbon at Cala Gonone's Acquario," the caption reads. "In nature, [parthenogenesis] is possible, but this would be the first case of documented parthenogenesis of Mustelus mustelus [smooth-hound shark]. We'll keep you posted."

To confirm if Ispera was, in fact, born via parthenogenesis, the New York Post stated marine biologists sent Ispera's and her mother's DNA samples to a lab.

smooth-hound shark
A baby female smooth-houd shark named "Ispera" was recently born in Italy in a tank with where two other female sharks lived. A smooth-hound shark in an aquarium in France. AFP / Stringer/iStock