Mystery of pregnant ‘virgin’ stingray solved as aquarium prepares for miracle birth

Mystery of pregnant ‘virgin’ stingray solved as aquarium prepares for miracle birth

A female stingray in a North Carolina aquarium is pregnant — even though there are no males in her tank.

The mysterious pregnancy has become the subject of widespread fascination, with many wondering how the round stingray, named Charlotte, came to be pregnant.

“The unique thing about Charlotte is we don’t have a male ray,” Brenda Ramer, executive director of the Aquarium & Shark Lab in Hendersonville, said in a video on Facebook.

Aquarium staff believe Charlotte’s seemingly immaculate conception is the result of parthenogenesis, a rare form of asexual reproduction observed in some animals, including fish, birds, insects, and amphibians.

Charlotte was found covered in shark bites — a sign of mating in sharks — which initially led some to speculate that a shark was the father, and Charlotte’s baby would be a shark-stingray hybrid.

But Kady Lyons, a research scientist at the Georgia Aquarium, told the Associated Press this sort of interspecies copulation is not biologically possible.

“We should set the record straight that there aren’t some shark-ray shenanigans happening here,” Lyons said.

Even so, Charlotte’s pregnancy is no less remarkable — she is the only known case of her species to become pregnant by parthenogenesis, Lyons said.

“We don’t know why it happens,” Lyons said. “Just that it’s kind of this really neat phenomenon that they seem to be able to do.”

Charlotte is expecting three or four pups, and is expected to give birth in about a week.