Do sharks lay eggs? (2024)

A huge variety of animals produce eggs. These help to protect and provide for offspring as they develop.

There are over 500 species of shark living in waters around the world and the majority give birth to live young. The remainder are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs.

Around 40 to 50 different shark species live permanently in or regularly visit the waters surrounding Britain. Among them are egg layers such as the small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris).

Empty shark-egg cases occasionally wash up on coastlines around the world, including in Britain. They look quite different to the traditional idea of an egg.

Do sharks lay eggs? (1)

What is a mermaid's purse?

Sharks and rays are fishes with skeletons made of cartilage, grouped together in the class Chondrichthyes. Their egg cases are sometimes referred to as mermaid's purses, and occasionally as Devil's purses.

The egg is a capsule that contains a developing animal and a yolk sac which the young gets its nutrition from. A capsule usually houses one embryo, but in some species there are multiple embryos per egg case.

Do sharks lay eggs? (2)

Some cases have long tendrils that help them to attach to seaweed or rocky seafloors. This makes it less likely that the egg will be washed away by ocean currents.

If an egg case washes up on a beach, you can likely work out what species it's from based on its size and shape. Generally, shark eggs have curly tendrils at the ends or are covered in fibres, whereas ray eggs are usually squarer with horns protruding from the corners.

Do sharks lay eggs? (3)

Spiral shark eggs

Bullhead sharks produce spiral- or corkscrew-shaped eggs.

Emma Bernard, a fossil fish expert at the Museum,explains the reasons behind the unusual shape in the video below.

Do sharks give birth to live young?

There are more viviparous shark species - which bear live young - than sharks that lay eggs. But throughout Earth's oceans, viviparity occurs in a variety of forms.

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest species of shark. Although these animals produce eggs, they don't lay them. Instead, the young hatch while still in the female's body and are born as miniature adults. This is known as ovoviviparity.

In 1996, a paper documented the case of a whale shark that was dubbed a 'megamamma'. The animal, which was harpooned off the coast of Taiwan, was found to be carrying around 300 embryos. Many of the sharks had already hatched from their egg cases, ready to be released into the ocean.

Do sharks lay eggs? (4)

In some species, the female will produce unfertilised eggs, which are eaten by embryos. This is known as oophagy ('egg eating') and occurs in species including the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) and bigeye thresher sharks (Alopias superciliosus).

Embryos of other sharks survive by feeding on their smaller siblings. This is called intrauterine cannibalism or sometimes as embryophagy ('embryo eating'). This is known to occur in sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus).

Do sharks lay eggs? (5)

Placental viviparity occurs in some species of shark - once the yolk sac has been depleted, it attaches to the uterine wall, acting as a pseudoplacenta.

The young get their nutrition through this link. Hammerhead (family Sphyrnidae), blue (Prionace glauca) and lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) all produce offspring in this mammal-like way.

Do sharks lay eggs? (2024)

FAQs

Do sharks lay eggs? ›

Only a few sharks, like cat sharks, lay eggs. But look out! A whole bunch of sharks give birth to live baby sharks, called pups. Mako sharks, bull sharks

bull sharks
The name "bull shark" comes from the shark's stocky shape, broad, flat snout, and aggressive, unpredictable behavior. In India, the bull shark may be confused with the Sundarbans or Ganges shark.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Bull_shark
, lemon sharks, and blue sharks are a few examples of sharks that are born live.

Do sharks only lay eggs? ›

Do sharks lay eggs or give live birth? Sharks exhibit a great diversity in reproductive modes. There are oviparous (egg-laying) species and viviparous (live-bearing) species. Oviparous species lay eggs that develop and hatch outside the mother's body with no parental care after the eggs are laid.

How many eggs does a female shark have? ›

When you are born, this number has reduced to around two million and by the time you reach puberty and begin menstruation (start your periods) you will have somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 eggs remaining. At menopause, you will have 1,000 to 2,000 eggs remaining.

Do sharks lay the biggest eggs in the world? ›

So the largest underwater egg is seen in whale shark and the largest land egg is seen in the ostrich. - Where the average length of the egg is 150mm or 6 inches in length. - When to the diameter, the average is 125 mm in diameter or 5 inches or 7 inches approximately.

How long is a shark in its egg? ›

The eggs of most oviparous sharks hatch in about six to 12 months, but it's 27 months for the brown catshark, another deep-sea catshark. For live-bearing species, the gestation period ranges from nine to at least 22 months. Once born (or hatched), shark pups receive no parental care; they're on their own.

Why don't sharks lay eggs? ›

Instead of laying her eggs, the female will carry them inside her body. Providing extra safety from potential predators. The embryos develop within an eggcase that has a thin membrane. Once developed the baby shark will hatch inside her mother, who'll then give birth to the young.

Did megalodon lay eggs? ›

Megalodon was a lamniform shark, like today's great white and mako sharks, as Smithsonian Magazine reports. Instead of simply laying eggs, as most fish do, lamniform shark eggs hatch inside the mother's body, and the young sharks remain there until they're large enough to survive on their own.

Is shark a baby or egg? ›

There are over 500 species of shark living in waters around the world and the majority give birth to live young. The remainder are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs.

What shark is born in an egg? ›

Shark species that lay eggs tend to be bottom-dwelling, and include the wobbegongs, horn sharks, and some cat sharks. For the viviparous species, there are several strategies for nourishing the young during gestation.

How many eggs do you lose by 30? ›

Anyone with a uterus is usually born with 1-2 million eggs. The number of eggs drops dramatically to 100,000-150,000 by your early 30s. This rapid decline is largely why fertility declines as you grow older, but it's not the only factor.

Do sharks have tongues? ›

Taste (Gustation) – Sharks do not have tongues, but some sharks have taste bud receptors, however there is no evidence that they can discriminate between bitter, sweet, salty and sour. It is believed that sharks use their taste buds simply to determine what is and what is not food.

What animal has the smallest egg? ›

The bee hummingbird has the world's smallest eggs. They weigh 0.0009 ounces and measure 0.275 inches long (6.985mm). That's tiny!

Do female sharks grow bigger than males? ›

In many shark species, females tend to be larger than males. This phenomenon, known as sexual dimorphism, is characterized by distinct differences in size and sometimes shape between males and females of the same species.

How many months is a shark pregnant? ›

Sharks typically give birth after 11–12 months of pregnancy, but some, such as the frilled shark, are pregnant for more than three years. In some sharks, a placenta develops during pregnancy. The placenta helps the baby shark breathe, eat and expel waste as it develops inside the mother.

How long is a shark pregnant? ›

It's Not Easy To Become A Baby Shark. Shark's gestation (pregnancy) periods are infamous for being incredibly long. Their gestation periods vary from five months to three years, though most sharks gestate for about 12 months.

Do sharks lay eggs or live birth? ›

There are over 500 species of shark living in waters around the world and the majority give birth to live young. The remainder are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Around 40 to 50 different shark species live permanently in or regularly visit the waters surrounding Britain.

Do any sharks give live birth? ›

Many sharks are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Like all sharks, species such as blue, bull, and hammerhead sharks rely at first on a yolk sac for nutrition. But they also develop a placental connection similar to a mammal's umbilical cord.

Do sharks lay eggs or live? ›

Lemon sharks, bull sharks, mako sharks and blue sharks are among those that give birth to live young. The remainder of sharks are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Oviparous sharks will lay eggs and leave them to develop and grow on their own.

Do most sharks lay eggs or give live birth? ›

Reproduction in sharks is equally varied: some lay eggs, but most give birth to live young. Sharks typically give birth after 11–12 months of pregnancy, but some, such as the frilled shark, are pregnant for more than three years. In some sharks, a placenta develops during pregnancy.

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