70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

Bull-nose ray pup born on exhibit at uShaka Sea World

By : Ann Kunz

On Thursday 5th May, a newborn bull-nose ray pup was found swimming in the open ocean exhibit at uShaka Sea World.
This is the first time that a pup of this species has been born to one of our three resident female bull rays.
What is fascinating about this bull-nose ray pup birth is that all three of the adult females in the exhibit have been there for the past 10 years with no male bull ray present during this time.
It would appear that the pup was born due to a process called parthenogenesis which allows for the development of an embryo without the presence of a male sperm.
This mode of reproduction is known to occur among a number of plant and animal species, including some sharks but so far we have not been able to find that it has been recorded in bull rays. Our pup is a female and this is also typical of pups born by this process.
Parthenogenesis is sometimes seen as a survival strategy by females in the absence of males of the species.
A tissue sample has been taken to test for DNA confirmation that the pup is not a hybrid – where the female might have mated with one of the other ray species in the exhibit. Results of the DNA test should be available within two weeks.
The little pup is being kept and monitored closely in our quarantine facility.