Sometimes you may want to find out the gender of a baby shark, and surprisingly enough many people DO want to know. Although they may look exactly like their parents when they are born, which is a smaller version of “I am going to kill you later, don’t mess with my dad” It may interest you to know that sharks don’t necessarily need a male to propagate their species.
Known as Parthenogenesis (from the Greek meaning of Virgin birth) an egg can start to divide without being fertilized and recent evidence has shown that female sharks will use this process when there is an absence of males. A pup conceived in this way is going to be undoubtedly female, lacking any threads of male genetic material; she will inherit all her mother’s genes.
Reproductive fluid received from a male shark can be stored for short period by the female, to be used at a later date, but sharks kept in long term captivity have suddenly produced babies after many years, such as a baby hammerhead born at a Nebraska Zoo in Omaha.Marine biologist Paulo Prodohl of Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, says that this is a surprising occurrence “because as far as anyone knew, all sharks reproduced only sexually by a male and female mating, requiring the embryo to get DNA from both parents for full development, just like in mammals.”
Known as “pups ” new born sharks can come into the world from an egg that is hatched outside or inside the body, or from being incubated inside a womb, much the same way that a human baby is.
It is also a dog eat dog world out there (sorry I meant shark eat shark) because “even before they’re born, baby sharks have to be tough to survive. Some that grow inside their mothers compete with their womb-mates for food, space, and their very lives. Others have to escape as soon as their mothers give birth to avoid becoming her tasty snack.” (Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks by Sandra Markle) With such fierce pre-natal training, baby sharks have the capability to feed and fend for themselves as soon as they are born.
Telling the gender of a baby shark is difficult at a really young age, but you can get a good idea as soon as evidence of “claspers” on the pelvic fin start to appear. They look like a couple of lobes that are sausage like in appearance, indicating that the shark is a male. These are the reproductive organs and they appear on the ventral side of the pelvic girdle. The female will have a smooth appearance.