Charlotte the Stingray is still pregnant … without a male

Charlotte the stingray: A flat, gray, roundish fish with a distinct bulge on her underside.
This is a screenshot from a video that Team ECCO shared on TikTok on February 21, 2024. Here we see Charlotte the stingray and her plump belly as she glides by the window in the aquarium tank. Watch the full video here. Image via Team ECCO.

Charlotte the stingray is pregnant!

Charlotte the stingray is a social media sensation. She lives at the Aquarium & Shark Lab run by Team ECCO in Hendersonville, North Carolina. On February 11, 2024, Team ECCO shared an ultrasound on TikTok showing that Charlotte is pregnant. But, as the announcement said:

Thing is, we have no male ray in the tank! One possibility is that the babies have gone through the process called parthenogenesis where the cell inside of the egg splits on its own and creates an exact clone of the mother. Another possibility is that she was impregnated by one of our two male white spotted bamboo sharks that we introduced to the tank in July 2023. We won’t know for sure until DNA testing is done on Charlotte’s pups.

Since then, millions have been checking in every day to find out if Charlotte had her babies. As of March 6, 2024, she’s still pregnant!

What is parthenogenesis?

Charlotte is between 12 and 14 years old. She’s been in a tank with young male sharks named Moe and Larry since July 2023, but the staff thought the sharks were too young to father children. So that would leave parthenogenesis as the likely cause of Charlotte’s pregnancy.

Parthenogenesis is a type of asexual reproduction. It happens when an embryo develops from an unfertilized egg. Charlotte would be the first-known round stingray to reproduce by parthenogenesis. Other rays and sharks have had babies through this asexual method of reproduction, though.

Here’s the latest video of Charlotte, from March 6. The update says that neither her behavior nor her eating habits have changed. She is still enjoying her meals of shrimp:

@_teamecco_ March 6th Charlotte update with special guests Larry and Moe! #teamecco #aquarium #stingray ? FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Bottom line: Charlotte the stingray is pregnant in a North Carolina aquarium. The stingray has not had a male ray in her tank.

Read more: Fish can do math, researchers say

March 6, 2024

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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