Aquarium gives tragic update on stingray that got pregnant without a mate

Aquarium gives tragic update on stingray that got pregnant without a mate

A stingray that got pregnant despite not having shared a tank with a male of her species for many years has died.

North Carolina aquarium announced the news this week.

The Aquarium and Shark Lab in Hendersonville said on Facebook late Sunday that the stingray, Charlotte, died after getting a rare reproductive disease. It didn’t go into further detail.

Charlotte went viral at the start of the year after her pregnancy was deemed “a once-in-a-lifetime science mystery”, by the aquarium.

The aquarium, which is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, announced in February that Charlotte had gotten pregnant despite not having shared a tank with a male stingray in at least eight years. But it said in late May that she was suffering from a rare reproductive disease and announced in early June that she hadn’t given birth and was no longer pregnant.

The original post, alongside two photos of Charlotte and the babies, said: “Our stingray, Charlotte, is expecting! We have held this close to our hearts for over 3 months. We have ultrasound images confirmed by two supporters: Dr. Robert Jones, the Aquarium Zvet out of Australia, and Becka Campbell, PhD candidate at Arizona State Univ.

“The really amazing thing is we have no male ray! We do have a couple of possible reasons For this event.”

Charlotte, a round stingray, in an undated photo at the Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO in Hendersonville

In a statement to ABC 13 News, the aquarium said there are two ways in which Charlotte could have become pregnant. One is a rare process called parthenogenesis, in which the eggs develop on their own without fertilisation and create a clone of the mother.

The mostly rare phenomenon can occur in some insects, fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles, but not in mammals. Documented examples have included California condors, Komodo dragons and yellow-bellied water snakes.

The second possible explanation for the pregnancy is Charlotte could have mated with one of the young sharks, according to Brenda Ramer, executive director of Team Ecco.

Ms Ramer told the outlet: “In mid-July 2023, we moved two one-year-old white spot bamboo males (sharks) into that tank. There was nothing we could find definitively about their maturation rate, so we did not think there would be an issue.

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

Speaking about the stingray and her future babies at the time, Ms Ramer added: “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!”