TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – It has been reported that an extremely rare intersex shark has was caught in the waters off of southern Taiwan earlier in 2017.
The Pacific spadenose shark (Scoliodon macrorhynchos) measuring 50 cm was caught by a fishing trawler in January, and was originally assumed to be an adult male because it had noticeable appendages known as claspers near its pelvic fin, a characteristic of male sharks.
However, later an examination of the deceased shark revealed that it possessed fully formed male and female reproductive tracts, including ovotestes, an organ possessing both testicular and ovarian features.
Despite being remarkably well formed, it remains unknown if the shark’s ovotestes were functional, and capable of producing sperm and eggs. Spadenose sharks give birth to live young and generally live between five and six years.
The Pacific spadenose shark (Scoliodon macrorhynchos) (Image from shark-references.com)
One specialist in marine biology, said that since no intersex shark has ever been found with a live embryo in its uterus or been witnessed mating, it is unclear if intersex sharks are capable of using either of their two reproductive systems, reports RT.
Some researchers suggest that environmental contaminants may be responsible for genetic miscoding, which may then occasionally result in the rare example of an intersex specimen.
The study on the shark found near Taiwan was published in the academic journal on Marine and Coastal Fisheries in late September. Full details on the find, as well as photographs of the examination can be found in the study published online.