Shark shocks scientists with 'virgin birth'

A female zebra shark left scientists baffled when she produced three offspring after spending years away from her male partner.

According to a scientific report, she simply developed the ability to reproduce on her own.

Leonie the shark spent 12 years living with a male at an aquarium in Townsville, Australia, according to Gizmodo. They had 24 pups together.

After that, Leonie was separated from her mate and any other male sharks. Four years later, Leonie suddenly gave birth to three healthy babies.

Christine Dudgeon, a professor at the University of Queensland, noticed this phenomenon.

She first made sure Leonie did not somehow store her partner's sperm. Then, after a test, Dudgeon found that the pups only carried their mother's DNA.

Leonie likely achieved asexual reproduction.

According to New Scientist, this is possible for several species that typically reproduce sexually -- "certain sharks, turkeys, Komodo dragons, snakes and rays."

However, asexual reproduction typically only happens with females who have never had a sexual history. This has only happened twice in recorded history -- once with a ray, and another with a boa constrictor.

Russell Bonduriansky, a professor at the University of New South Wales, told New Scientist that it's almost common for some species to switch from sexual reproduction to sexual reproduction -- but it's extremely uncommon for the opposite to occur.

It's not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability," Dudgeon told the outlet.

Scientists believe this method is only a temporary way to continue the species until a male is found, so males aren't totally unnecessary for reproduction just yet.

Read more about sharks:

11 PHOTOS
States with the most shark attacks historically
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States with the most shark attacks historically

10. New York: 10 unprovoked attacks

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9. Georgia: 13 unprovoked attacks

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8. New Jersey: 15 unprovoked attacks

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7. Oregon: 26 unprovoked attacks

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6. Texas: 41 unprovoked shark attacks

The expansive Glaveston beach has had 17 total confirmed attacks.

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5. North Carolina: 60 unprovoked attacks

New Hanover County has had 13 confirmed shark attacks since 1935.

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4. South Carolina: 90 unprovoked attacks

Throughout its history, Charleston County has had 32 shark incidents.

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3. California: 116 unprovoked attacks

San Diego had 17 attacks occur near its beaches.

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2. Hawaii: 143 unprovoked attacks

56 occurred in Maui, home to Wailea and Mākena beaches.

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1. Florida: 748 unprovoked attacks 

At least 275 confirmed attacks occurred in Volusia County, home to New Smyrna and Dayton beaches.

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