Unfortunately, not all species are as well adapted to parthenogenesis as the whiptail lizard. Offspring of parthenogenesis in sharks tend to be short lived, rarely reaching sexual maturity. “There’s a lack of genetic variation in the offspring that could lead to what’s called the expression of delirious recessive alleles,” says Feldheim. 

In other words, despite their miraculous conception, vertebrates born by parthenogenesis can be short lived.

Lyons was part of an artificial insemination trial in zebra sharks, where scientists studied the chances of survival between sexually produced and parthenogenetic pups. The study found parthenotes (individuals generated by parthenogenesis) lived on average for a year less, with many displaying behaviour that weakened their chances of survival, such as lopsided swimming, spinning, headstands, and difficulty feeding.

Lyons says she was not surprised to see evidence of parthenogenesis in stingrays, although Charlotte’s case has not solved all the mysteries surrounding this phenomenon. “One thing we don’t know is if there is a trigger to females reproducing this way. We just assume that when you have boys and girls together, that they’re going to do their thing.”

However, it’s in these unique situations, such as having animals in human care, that parthenogenesis is occurring more frequently. “Obviously, life finds a way,” she says.

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By fersz