A female stingray at a NC aquarium becomes pregnant without a male mate. But how?

One North Carolina aquarium is looking to solve the mystery of a female stingray's solo pregnancy that has sparked confusion.

The Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team Ecco is located in Hendersonville, 103 miles west of Charlotte. Staff there say the female stingray is expecting pups but there's one problem. The aquarium has no male stingrays.

So how could the female stingray become pregnant without a male mate?

There are two possible explanations for the rare pregnancy.

Rare ‘virgin birth': Baby shark asexually reproduced at Brookfield Zoo, second in the US

Asexual reproduction is common among stingrays

Research has shown that animals, especially stingrays, have the ability to asexually reproduce when there is a lack of reproduction for that species.

"First, you should know that parthenogenesis is asexual reproduction of an organism in which a female produces an embryo without a male present to fertilize the egg," wrote Dr. April Smith, executive director the North Carolina Science Trail in a blog post. "This means the offspring are, typically, all female, and this occurs in a situation where there are no males present (i.e., zoo/aquarium usually, or perhaps a secluded natural environment like the deep sea). It’s a survival mechanism that allows for the preservation of a species."

Female stingray could have been impregnated by male shark

The Hendersonville aquarium tells FOX Carolina they were afraid their female stingray named “Charlotte” had cancer when she began to swell.

In order to confirm or deny their suspicions, an ultrasound was conducted. The results revealed the multiple growths within her body were later proven to be eggs.

The aquarium found bite marks on Charlotte, a common sign that are left on mating sharks.

In July 2023, two young white-spot bamboo sharks were moved into Charlotte's tank.

“We have definitive video of the most current ultrasound showing two if not three pups,” Team Ecco told FOX Carolina. “DNA will need to be done after the pups’ birth – unless we have visual cues about a mixed breed.”

Charlotte is expecting to give birth soon, the aquarium confirms.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Female stingray's mysterious pregnancy: Male shark could be culprit