5 Things You Never Wondered About Shark Sex

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by: Anastacia Darby

It's a weird world of shark sex out there. Mating is rarely observed, but researchers have discovered a few things that might surprise you.

Click here to learn more about the life cycle of a shark.

5. Male sharks have two penis-like organs, called claspers.

Shark Claspers
Auscape/UIG via Getty Images
As with all male cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays and skates) these claspers are used to channel semen into females during mating. Interestingly enough, only one clasper is used at a time. Once the male has made his intentions known, he will 'dock' beside the female and flex his adjacent clasper across the mid-line of his body to insert into her genital opening, or cloaca. Once inserted, the clasper uses spurs to lock it into place until mating is complete. (Ouch!)

4. It's extremely aggressive.

Shark Mouth

Male sharks often let the females know they are interested in mating by biting them in various places. These 'love nips' or pre-copulatory bites are meant to show interest and facilitate female cooperation, and subsequent copulatory bites to grip the pectoral fins are used to hold the female shark in place for mating. It's typically easy to spot the female sharks that have recently mated. They will have noticeable bite marks and raw skin. It's like the shark equivalent of hickies...with sharp teeth and likely some bloodshed.

3. Some sharks can reproduce asexually.

Shark Sex

Because, who needs an aggressive biting male with spurred penises around when you can do it yourself? Asexual reproduction, also known as parthenogenesis, is rare but not impossible. Parthenogenesis is a type of asexual reproduction in which the offspring develops from unfertilized eggs. Scientists have confirmed parthenogenesis in the bonnethead shark, blacktip shark, and zebra shark, and reported other species as well. While parthenogenesis may occur in the wild, it has only been confirmed in captivity. It is likely that this is used as a last-resort tactic for female sharks that are unable to find a mate.

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