Shark with complete set of male, female sex organs a first

Shark with complete set of male, female sex organs a first

[Ed. – The important question is how does it self-identify?]

Many fish are switch-hitters: they have the ability to change from male to female, or vice versa, when it’s convenient for reproduction. Not so for sharks and rays, which develop either male or female organs before birth. But off the coast of Taiwan, fishers discovered a shark with a fully developed set of male and female reproductive organs. The animal is one of only a handful of such sharks ever documented, and the first of its species.

Intersex sharks are incredibly rare, says Carl Meyer, a marine biologist at the University of Hawai‘i. “I’ve caught literally thousands of sharks myself, and I’ve never seen [one],” he says.

The 50-centimeter-long Pacific spadenose shark was caught in a fishing trawl in the southern Taiwan Strait, and landed at Xiamen, China, in January 2017. Externally, the shark appeared to be an adult male, with a fully developed pair of claspers—penis-like appendages that extend from the pelvic fin. When the shark was examined internally, however, it was found to have a complete pair of ovotestes—gonads that contain both ovarian and testicular tissue—as well as both male and female reproductive tracts.

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