'Virgin shark' produces fertile eggs despite no contact with males

The female shark has had no contact with males for more than two years. Credit: Jeremy Durkin/PA Wire

A female shark, which has had no contact with any males for more than two years, has produced two fertile eggs which are due to hatch in nine months' time.

The white spotted bamboo shark, which has lived at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre since 2013, will find out if she has become a mother at the end of the year.

Experts have said that if the births are successful, the babies would be examples of an amazing phenomenon which has only recently been identified in sharks called 'parthenogenesis'.

The process is defined as "a type of asexual reproduction in which offspring develops from unfertilised eggs".

The shark produced two fertile eggs which are due to hatch in nine months. Credit: Jeremy Durkin/PA Wire

The discovery of the two eggs containing valid embryos comes within days of the announcement in Germany of a second generation virgin birth involving the same bamboo shark species at a research facility in Munich.

Mr Gook added that one explanation of asexual reproduction is that it is natures way of ensuring the survival of the species if there is a drastic decline in numbers which make it harder for males and females to locate each other.

The two eggs have been removed to the safety of a nursery tank where visitors will be able to see them and where they will be closely monitored for the full term of their development.