According to studies, over 400 different sharks are living in the world. Each species has its unique styles of mating habits and rituals.
Some species go through complicated mating dances, travel miles to meet their prospective mates, give live birth, lay eggs, and others give birth with just a single pup.
With the various styles of mating habits of sharks, all sharks are capable of internal fertilization and reproduce asexually. Sharks also have different techniques to attract potential mates.
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Shark Mating Habits And Rituals
Sharks differ in mating habits and rituals to reproduce. The main problem in observing sharks’ mating habits and rituals is complex. Some sharks are not observed because their habitat lies in the deepest underwater.
While other sharks live in the shallows, most sharks have a long pregnancy or gestation period, and some reach two to three years of gestation. Sharks are solitary hunters, and they tend to travel a long distance to find and meet their ideal mates.
Most sharks deposit their eggs on the grounds like seamounts, coastlines, and estuaries because these places have shallow and warm waters. These locations where sharks lay their eggs are good sources of nutritious foods for newly hatched pups.
Female sharks release chemicals
Female sharks release chemicals in the water to start mating and stimulate male sharks’ interests. These released chemicals are called pheromones, which other animals also have. Since sharks live in different locations underwater, these chemicals released by female sharks will help them find their potential mates.
Most sharks practice biting techniques. This technique is done mainly by male sharks to get the attention of female sharks. The bites of male sharks leave marks on the body of female sharks.
Though, these bite marks do not affect the health condition of female sharks because their skin is thick and sturdy.
Like Whitetip Reef sharks, some sharks bite the fin of their potential mate. However, once the male shark gets the attention of the female shark, it may show and practice rejection behavior.
Like Lemon sharks and Nurse Sharks, some sharks can choose one or more mates. Like Nurse Sharks, they also tend to block, avoid, and refuse male sharks if they are not interested in them. But, if a female shark likes a male shark, it will start flaring up its pelvic fins.
All sharks go through and practice internal fertilization. Copulation begins once sharks have found and selected their mates. The paired reproductive organs of male sharks are called claspers, and the opening in the female reproductive organs is called the cloaca.
When the clasper is inserted in the cloaca, the sperm is injected into the female organ; it is where the fertilization happens.
The mating process is difficult for both male and female sharks because they will have wounds. Mating starts when a male shark mounts a female shark. It either swims underneath or beside it.
The male shark will bite onto the female to keep and hold themselves during mating.
When the clasper is inserted in the cloaca, it will be hooked until the sperm is released. Some species of sharks like Hammerhead sharks and Requiem sharks only use their right clasper.
Then once the sperm is injected, they move on and part ways. Fertilization happens immediately, but some sharks like Small Spotted Catshark usually hold sperms for two to three years.
Types Of Reproduction
The types of reproduction of sharks have four forms: Asexual Reproduction, Oviparity Reproduction, Ovoviviparous Reproduction, and Viviparity Reproduction.
- Asexual Reproduction – This form of reproduction is a sporadic form of breeding and is only observed in a few sharks like Hammerhead Sharks. Female sharks can reproduce without a mate.
- Oviparity Reproduction – Oviparous sharks tend to deposit their fertilized eggs in the ocean, which will eventually hatch outside the female’s body. The eggs from the female shark’s body are called “mermaid purses,” containing leathery and thick membranes.
Sharks that are oviparous deposit their eggs in the reef beds, and other sharks will protect and guard it to prevent predators from eating. Epaulet Sharks, Swell Sharks, Zebra Sharks, Carpet Sharks, and Catsharks are examples of oviparous sharks.
- Ovoviviparous Reproduction – Sharks that are ovoviviparous hatch eggs inside the uterus. Ovoviviparous sharks include Tiger Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Greenland Sharks, Gummy Sharks, Thresher Sharks, Great White Sharks, And Cookie Cutter Sharks.
- Viviparity Reproduction – Viviparity reproduction happens when the fertilized eggs are hatched inside the uterus of the female shark, and the placenta feeds the pups through the umbilical cord. Viviparous reproduction is mainly used by Whale Sharks, Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks, Salon Sharks, Silvertip Sharks, Blue Sharks, and Lemon Sharks.
Challenges In Conserving Sharks
With the diversity of mating habits and rituals of sharks, the challenges in conserving sharks are inevitable. Every shark is unique in its habits, rituals, locations, and breeding grounds.
The issue is the maturity of sharks. It takes seven years for a shark to reach its reproductive age, and some species need 15 years to reach their sexual maturity age.
It becomes an issue in conserving sharks because they are killed and lose the chance to have offspring even before they reach the right age.
Shark mating habits and rituals are widely diverse. One mating habit might or might not apply to all sharks. Sharks vary in terms of gestation, internal fertilization, and type of reproduction.
According to research, around 100 sharks are killed and slaughtered every year. It becomes a big problem for marine management and sustainability because sharks cannot reproduce immediately. It is essential to understand and know how sharks reproduce to prevent and protect them from massive killings.
Thus, it lessens the number of species underwater. If everyone can learn and understand how shark mating habits work, it will help to make a difference.