The live birth of a thresher shark has been photographed for the first time, providing a unique and rare window into the world of these oceanic predators.
The photograph was taken during a research dive in 2013, according to BBC News, but only recently released in the journal Coral Reefs. It depicts a thresher shark in the act of giving live birth to its pup, and represents the first record of such an event in this species of shark. More than that, however, it is also the first instance in which any oceanic shark has been recorded giving birth, according to Dr. Simon Oliver from the University of Chester, lead researcher of the study.
“We were doing a standard survey – out every day, making observations,” he recalled. “One of [our team] is a photographer – Attila Kaszo. He took the picture of the shark, and when he processed the image and showed it to me, I freaked out.”
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Oliver described the photograph of the shark’s birth as one of the most exciting moments of his career. The study was conducted at a seamount in the Philippines that the sharks frequent, where smaller fish called cleaner wrasse nibble away at parasites on their skin. Calling the location a “shark cleaning station,” Oliver notes that he wants the region designated as a protected area.
“It looks like this area is not just a cleaning station, which is already massively essential, it’s also serving as a pupping ground,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of [pregnant] females there, so I don’t think this is a one-off.”
Though shark reproduction isn’t fully understood, as the Inquisitr has previously reported, scientists are making strides in their observations. Female sharks are known to store sperm, fertilizing their eggs when the time for reproduction is optimal, and in 2010, a brownbanded bamboo shark was recorded storing sperm for over 45 months, according to the Washington Post. Parthenogenesis, in which a female shark can reproduce without a male, has also been observed in four species, though it is exceedingly rare.
Dr. Simon Thorrold, a senior scientist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, noted his excitement at the photograph of the thresher shark giving birth, though he pointed out that it will be of limited importance for shark conservation.
“I have never seen a comparable image for any other pelagic shark,” he said.
Though Thorrold allowed that the shark’s birth may be the first ever photographed, he pointed out that such claims are often difficult to substantiate.
[Image: Attila Kaszo via BBC News]