Charlotte, stingray with virgin pregnancy, has reproductive disease, aquarium says

Charlotte, the stingray who gained attention for having become pregnant without a mate, is now said to have a rare reproductive disease.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, the aquarium where the bottom-dwelling flat fish resides said that “reports show that Charlotte has developed a rare reproductive disease that has negatively impacted her reproductive system.”

“We regret the delay of updates regarding Charlotte. This time was necessary to gather data and analyze lab and testing results,” the statement from Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO in Hendersonville, North Carolina, began.

“Our priority is to focus on Charlotte’s health and wellbeing. We will work with and be guided by veterinarians and specialists to better understand this disease and the treatment options for Charlotte. While the research of this disease is limited, we hope that Charlotte’s case and medical treatment will positively contribute to science and be of benefit to other rays in the future.”

The statement ended with a thank you to the public for its ongoing support and asked for respect for the stingray and her care team as they continue to “navigate this unexpected news and work to determine the best path forward.”

The aquarium did not specify the type of disease the stingray has or what this means for her pregnancy.

Representatives for the aquarium did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.

Who is Charlotte the stingray?

Charlotte the stingray has lived at Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO for eight years. In February, the aquarium revealed their round stingray was pregnant — despite never interacting with a male stingray.

The announcement left followers baffled as to how this could have happened and when these miraculous babies are going to appear. In April, the aquarium’s executive director, Brenda Ramer, told TODAY.com that even her understanding of the pregnancy had narrowed since she first announced the news.

According to Ramer, the fish was adopted from a private home outside the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, and is estimated to be between 12 and 16 years old.

Despite Charlotte never encountering a male round stingray since arriving at the aquarium, a February livestream of an ultrasound at the aquarium showed that Charlotte is pregnant.

“We found out that Charlotte is expecting, and it’s a really strange and unique phenomenon,” Ramer explained during the livestream ultrasound. “She’s carrying somewhere between three and four pups.”

Users were quick to express their fascination about how exactly the stingray became pregnant. One theory Ramer presented is that she was impregnated by sharks who shared her tank at one point.

Benjamin M. Perlman, who has a doctorate in biology and is a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach’s Department of Biological Sciences, researches and studies stingrays. Speaking to TODAY.com, he said that cross-species mating and reproduction aren’t possible in this case.

He explained that “the morphology of the male shark won’t necessarily fit with the morphology of the female round stingray.”

In the months since her livestream announcement, Ramer told TODAY.com she now believes Charlotte became pregnant through parthenogenesis.

Britannica defines parthenogenesis as a “reproductive strategy” in which a female can develop and produce offspring without fertilization.

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