Schmidt, a UIC associate professor of biological sciences, determined paternity of 29 frozen embryos saved from a female whale shark caught off the coast of Taiwan in 1995. The embryos, studied in collaboration with Professor Shoou-Jeng Joung at the National Taiwan Ocean University, are extremely rare.
The pregnant shark carried a surprisingly large number of embryos -- 304 -- still in the uterus and representing a spectrum of age and development stages ranging from being still egg-encased to developed, near-term animals.
Schmidt and her colleagues spent several years developing DNA genetic markers to study whale sharks, initially for population genetics, but in this study the tool was used to determine paternity.
Shark reproduction is still an emerging science, but what is known suggests that most broods are sired by more than one male. That is not what Schmidt found with this particular female whale shark.
"These differently aged embryos -- itself unusual across animal species -- had the same father," Schmidt said. "We have to be very cautious in drawing conclusions from a single litter, but the data suggest female whale sharks store sperm after a single mating event, and subsequently fertilize their own eggs as they are produced."
If the finding can be supported from analysis of other whale shark litters, Schmidt said, "it would suggest that there is no whale shark breeding ground where large numbers of animals meet to mate, but rather that mating occurs as an isolated event."
Follow-up studies may be serendipity. International protocols protect whale sharks from capture, few are housed in aquariums, and those that are are usually less than 25 years old and not yet sexually mature. Scientists typically study whale sharks at seasonal feeding grounds, but those animals are usually juveniles not mature enough to breed. Rarely are adult females observed in the wild.
"Protections for whale sharks have increased in many parts of the world, yet shark numbers seem to be declining, and the average size is getting smaller," said Mark Meekan, principal research scientist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences.
"This is a classic sign of overfishing, where larger, more valuable animals are selectively removed," he said. "Targeted fishing of breeding-age animals in a late-maturing species can be devastating for its survival."
The findings are reported in the journal Endangered Species Research, published online Aug. 4. Other authors include Meekan; Joung and Chien-Chi Chen of the National Taiwan Ocean University; Saad I. Sheikh, formerly of UIC; and Bradley Norman of ECOCEAN Inc.
The work was funded by a grant from Project Aware.
EDITORS: Photos to accompany this story are available at http://newsphoto.lib.uic.edu/v/whale_shark/
Paul Francuch | Newswise Science News
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine