Monday 20 September 2021

Birth of fatherless baby stingray surprises Dolfinarium

A stingray in its natural environs Photo: Depositphotos

A stingray at dolphin park Dolfinarium in Harderwijk has reproduced without apparently having mated.

Workers were astounded to discover a baby stingray in the basin a fortnight ago, not only because is it the first time a stingray at the park has given birth it but because it did so without the assistance of a male, the park claims.

‘The female has been swimming around without having seen a male in over seven years,’ general manager Alex Tiebot told the AD.

It may be a case of parthogenesis, Tiebot said, a survival strategy where females give birth without fertilisation by a male taking place. There is a small possibility the female may have been carrying the sperm of her last encounter with a male to use in case of need, he said.

Evolutionary biology expert professor Martine Maan said DNA testing would have to show if this is really a case of parthogenisis. Young born this way would only have the mother’s DNA.

Maan, who knows of a single case of parthogenesis in eagle rays, said she could imagine it happening in the confines of a sea park basin. ‘This female had no choice, as there was no male in sight.’

And although the park announced the birth as ‘a happy occasion’ Maan is not so sure. ‘One way of looking at it would be to say the mother is fit and healthy enough to reproduce but another is to point to the unnatural circumstances she is living under. You can also wonder how healthy animals born this way turn out to be, having only the mother’s genetic material,’ she told the paper.

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