The Jesus Fish
Shark's virgin birth stuns scientists
A female hammerhead shark has given birth without the help of a male, after genetic tests revealed that its baby shark had no paternal DNA.
An international team reports that the shark's "virgin birth" was down to an unusual method of reproduction known as "parthenogenesis", where an egg starts to divide without being fertilised.
This is the first scientific report of male free asexual reproduction in sharks.
So what to make of the marine messiah? Does its immaculate nautical nativity suggest an aquatic apocalypse is upon us? Do we pray? Repent? Bring it gifts of gold, frankincense, and mackerel?
Will PETA decide that being mollycoddled by the Holy Spirit has rendered the shark unfit to survive in the wild and that we therefore need to execute it?
Rest easy, pilgrim. Turns out the appropriate panic inspired by this unprecedented event is more a familiar one. Say it with me...
"Female sharks might reproduce like this more often when they have difficulty finding mates at low population densities. This could hasten the erosion of population genetic diversity and perpetuate the production of genetically disadvantaged offspring."
This is because sexual reproduction allows for increased genetic diversity which enables a population and ultimately the species to adapt/change/evolve to ever changing environmental pressures, from disease to climate change.
Scientists with the World Conservation Union, which publishes the Red Lists of Threatened Species, recently upgraded the "threat" category of several sharks.
In other words, sharks conceived by single moms via parthenogenesis, no matter how miraculous, are going to be less adaptive to man's boorish ruinations. Sharks begin to die off, there are fewer boy sharks lurking around the girl sharks, parthenogenesis increases, and the soon the vicious cycle of virgin shark birth and global shark death is unstoppable.
The optimist in me finds peace in the knowledge that when this shark dies, it'll be for our ecological sins. The pessimist in me remembers what happened the last time a predator learned this trick.
Handcrafted by Flip on May 23, 2007 |
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