Three ways sharks reproduce

hammerhead shark

By Priscilla Seah, aquarist at S.E.A. Aquarium

In an earlier post, we shared the different ways marine animals reproduce. Today we’d like to dive deeper into one animal in particular – the sharks.

Compared to most fish, where the female fish release thousands of eggs into the water for male fish to fertilise, sharks fertilise their young internally and have a smaller number of young.

During mating, the male shark bites on the female shark’s left or right pectoral fin, flips her over and insert his clasper to channel semen into her cloaca. The shark sperm then fertilises inside the female shark.

shark anatomy

Female sharks reproduce in three different ways, depending on the species. They either

  • give birth to live young (viviparous)
  • lay eggs (oviparous)
  • or hatch eggs in their bodies before giving birth to live young (oviviparous)

Baby sharks, called pups, are left to fend for themselves after they are born.


Live birth (viviparous)

Some sharks are viviparous which means the pups develop inside the mother shark’s body in a very thin-walled sac within the womb and receives nutrient through a yolk placenta.

The mother shark gives birth to a litter of live young of two to 20 pups.

Bonnethead shark and Blacktip reef shark are viviparous sharks. Find them at the Shark Seas at S.E.A. Aquarium.

Bonnethead shark pup
Bonnethead shark pup

Lay eggs (oviparous)

Leopard shark growth

Some sharks are oviparous. The female shark lay eggs from which the pups hatch. Shark eggs, called mermaid’s purse, are often protected by a leathery case and has yolk which provides food to the pups.

The Leopard shark and Bamboo shark are oviparous sharks, you can find it in S.E.A. Aquarium’s Open Ocean Habitat.

Leopark shark pup in an egg
Leopard shark pup in an egg
Bamboo shark pup in an egg


Eggs with live birth (ovoviviparous)

Ovoviviparous sharks give birth to live young that developed from eggs hatched inside the mother’s body. They get their nutrients from the yolk inside the eggs which is different from viviparous pup which get their nutrients from placenta.

In some sharks, the stronger pups eat the weaker ones in their mother’s womb. Some pups look completely different from their parents.

Tawny nurse shark is ovoviviparous shark, which you can find it in Shark Seas at S.E.A. Aquarium.

Tawny nurse shark
Tawny nurse shark

Come see over 100 sharks from more than 12 different species at Shark Seas and the Open Ocean Habitat at S.E.A. Aquarium.


How do sharks reproduce

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