The smalltooth sawfish is one of the most endangered species and researchers are doing all they can to try to save this amazing fish from going completely extinct.
Whilst searching for ways to save the smalltooth sawfish, a team of scientists conducted a study and what they found left them completely in awe.
According to their study, the wild sawfish has the unique ability to give “virgin birth”, which means that this fish can give birth without needing to mate prior to it.
Although the smalltooth sawfish is not the only animal that has this special ability of giving birth without mating, researchers said it’s the most recent of the vertebrates to exhibit this uncommon behavior.
According to the findings of the study, about 3% of the smalltooth sawfish population living in the estuaries of Florida was the result of virgin birthing.
The scientists detailed the findings of the recent study on Monday in the journal Current Biology
The team who conducted the study performed DNA fingerprinting analysis and found that the sawfish females reproduce without needing to mate more often than it was previously believed.
Andrew Fields, one of the lead authors of the study, explained the behavior saying that this strange-looking species of shark resorts to asexual reproductive means in order to avoid inbreeding.
Fields also believes that some of the sawfish give virgin birth because their population is very low in Florida.
The process of giving birth without mating is called facultative parthenogenesis.
Scientists say this behavior has been observed in other shark species and certain reptiles, such ast the Komodo dragon.
The animals exhibit this asexual behavior often while being in captivity.
However, these species are not exclusively asexual. Depending on how available the mating partners are, the females can switch from reproducing asexually or sexually.
The researchers explained how the process of “virgin birth” goes. To achieve it, an egg must absorb a genetically identical cell in order to recreate an offspring that is about half as diverse as the female fish.
Asexual reproduction is not as effective as sexual one mostly because the genetic variability is reduced.
The scientists studied a large number of sawfish that had been the result of parthenogenesis and according to them, the offspring appeared healthy and viable.
After they tagged the fish, the researchers released them back into the wild.
Scientists are hoping that the findings will motivate conservationists to try and save the smalltooth sawfish from going extinct.
Image Source: flmnh.ufl.edu