A rare find off the coast Taiwan in the Southern Taiwan Strait is gaining worldwide interest. A Pacific spadenose shark measuring just a little over 1.5 feet and weighing only 12 ounces was caught up in a fishing trawl in January 2017.
When the shark was taken to Xiamen, China and examined by scientists from Xiamen University, it was discovered that the shark had both male and female reproductive organs and the genitals were fully formed.
It is one of the rarest shark discoveries to date, as intersexuality in sharks is possible but rare, though the organs are usually only partially formed.
Several species of fish are able to switch genders, but sharks develop their reproductive organs before birth.
However, some sharks have been observed giving birth asexually, and perhaps intersexuality played a role in those instances.
“They can give birth without mating—like virgin birth,” said Dr. Chris Lowe, a scientist from California State University in an interview with Haikai Magazine. “The question is: why? We just don’t know enough about shark biology to be able to answer those questions.”
According to Lowe, intersexuality may result in a shark giving birth to a clone of itself, explaining the “virgin birth” phenomenon.
The likely cause of the unique intersexuality of the shark is genetic.
There are concerns that contaminated and polluted waters are causing malformations and irregularities in marine wildlife but although rarely spotted, intersexuality is naturally possible in certain species.
The find is certainly a boon to marine scientists and shark experts looking to understand how certain species develop dual reproductive organs and what underlying genetic and outside factors are at work to cause the rare condition.
Image Credit: Wikimedia