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Fin-bidden love: A shark might have just impregnated a stingray in captivity!

Fin-bidden love: A shark might have just impregnated a stingray in captivity!
Last week, we heard about blue whales in the North Atlantic getting frisky with fin whale hybrids, leaving us looking for another scandalous Valentine's love story. And wouldn't you know it, opportunity has popped up on a platter – a stingray-shaped platter, at that!

Our heroine in this aquatic yarn is a rusty-coloured, dinner plate-sized stingray named Charlotte. This poor lass has spent most of her life stuck in an aquarium in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, miles away from where she should be. To say she's been lonely is putting it mildly; the girl hasn't seen a fella of her own kind in eight years!

Fed up with this enforced celibacy, it seems she's taken matters into her own fins. Charlotte's expecting four pups, due any day now. But here's the shocker: the daddy of these stingpups could be a shark!

When the folks at TEAM ECCO's aquarium and shark lab in North Carolina noticed Charlotte's bulked-up figure, they worried they were overfeeding her or that the poor dear had the big C. Luckily, an ultrasound revealed the real reason – pregnancy!

The most likely explanation is parthenogenesis, or "virgin birth". This means the female produces eggs that get clever and hatch without needing a fella. One egg just decides to buddy up with another cell, leading to all sorts of cell division shenanigans and, voila, an embryo appears.

Parthenogenesis ain't exactly unheard of in the animal kingdom. Sharks, for instance, have been known to pull off solo baby productions when they're feeling lonely. While it's rarer in stingrays, Charlotte seems like a special gal.

Normally, we'd accept this explanation and move on. But wait, there's more! Aquarium staff noticed some bite marks on Charlotte. Now, it just so happens that male sharks like to give their ladies a little nip to hold them in place before getting down to business.

Did a Romeo bamboo shark get a bit too friendly with our Juliet stingray? Hybrids have happened before, but only between species that are close cousins on the evolutionary tree. Think of it like humans and snakes – not exactly best mates. So, experts reckon it's highly unlikely that Charlotte's pregnancy is down to some sharky shenanigans.

For now, all we know is that shark-stingray love hasn't been documented before. The aquarium will solve this fishy mystery when Charlotte gives birth and they test the stingray pups' DNA. So, stay tuned, ocean enthusiasts, this tale is far from over! Let's see if it's a parthenogenesis party, a shocking shark romance, or the dawn of a brand new species!

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