Researchers discovered that a stingray named Charlotte has become pregnant, despite having not been around a male ray in 8 years. Residing in a tank in North Carolina, Charlotte’s caretakers are attempting to solve the mystery of who is the father of her babies.

Stingray is Mysteriously Pregnant Despite Having Not Been Around Males in 8 Years Mark Conlin:Alamy
Charlotte the stingray is mysteriously pregnant, despite having not been around males in 8 years; Photo: Mark Conlin/Alamy

The Aquarium and Shark Lab in Hendersonville, North Carolina, hosted a live video on Facebook in which they explained Charlotte’s situation. The round stingray, which is native to Southern California, was found to be carrying three to four pups and is believed to be between 12 and 16 years old.

“The unique thing about Charlotte is we do not have a male ray,” Brenda Ramer, founder and executive director of Team ECCO, said in the Facebook video.

Ramer has offered two possibilities regarding Charlotte’s mysterious pregnancy. One is that Charlotte may have become pregnant by another animal because, though there are no male sting rays present in her tank, Charlotte has been living in the same tank as two “very young male sharks” since July.

The evidence supporting this theory is that Charlotte was discovered covered in bite marks, which is a telltale sign of shark mating.

“We didn’t think anything about it until one day we were kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh. Sharks bite when they mate,'” Ramer said. “…There is a potential she mated with one of these young male sharks.”

Though comments of that nature quickly went viral, experts have stated that such an event isn’t possible. According to researchers, apart from differences such as size, their anatomies and DNA wouldn’t lend themselves to procreation.


Charlotte Pregnant Stingray WSOC-TV
Charlotte the stingray in North Carolina tank; Photo: WSOC-TV

“We should set the record straight that there aren’t some shark-ray shenanigans happening here,” Kady Lyons, a research scientist at the Georgia Aquarium, told the Associated Press.

The alternative theory regarding Charlotte’s pregnancy, and what experts believe is more likely true, is that the pregnancy is the result of a rare phenomenon known as parthenogenesis. This process involves smaller cells, separate from the mother’s eggs, being created, and then merging with the egg to create offspring.

“Pretty confident that this is parthenogenesis …. and parthenogenesis literally translates into virgin birth or miracle birth,” Ramer stated. “… It is very rare to happen.”

According to National Geographic, this creates offspring that are “similar to the mother but not exact clones.” Charlotte is due in the next few weeks and, whether the father is a shark or just nonexistent, “we have very unique juju going on here,” Ramer said.