Do sharks lay eggs? The answer will surprise you!

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With hundreds of different species of sharks in our oceans, it's no surprise that there are differences in reproductive methods between species. Most other fish spawn, do sharks spawn too? This is the question we are about to answer.

Which sharks can have offspring? (also known as viviparous)

These sharks are viviparous:

  • hammerhead shark
  • blue shark
  • lemon shark
  • beagle
  • silvertip shark
  • salmon shark
  • bull shark
  • whitetip reef shark

Do sharks lay eggs?

Some sharks lay eggs, but most sharks have eggs inside them that hatch until they hatch. They then release the hatchlings into the sea. Some sharks give birth to live young in a manner similar to the process experienced by mammals.

Regardless of how a shark is born or hatched, it is inherently independent. Baby sharks are called pups, and newborn babies swim away from their mothers as quickly as possible to avoid being eaten.

We'll look at some details about the shark eggs and pups below.

Which sharks spawn? (also known as oviparous)

These sharks are oviparous:

  • cat shark
  • Dogfish
  • bamboo shark
  • carpet shark
  • zebra shark
  • swell shark
  • port jackson sharks
  • Dogfish
  • Australian swell shark

Which sharks spawn and give birth? (also known as oviparous)

These sharks are oviparous:

  • sand tiger shark
  • great white shark
  • leopard shark
  • nurse shark
  • mako shark
  • thresher shark
  • whale shark

What do shark eggs look like?

shark eggs
Embryos are born in the egg shells of oviparous sharks.

©Barbara Ash/Shutterstock.com

Oviparous shark eggs are laid with a shell around them. The female shark uses the tendrils of the egg shell itself to lay these eggs where she deems safe. These tendrils, and the horns on the eggshells from which they come, vary in appearance from shark to shark.

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This eggshell is thick and tough, and it protects the embryo and yolk from certain predators. The embryo can often be seen wriggling inside.

The shell itself is made of keratin, the same fibrous protein found in human nails and hair. When the puppy is ready to enter the world, it bites a hole in the eggshell to get out.

What is a Mermaid Wallet?

mermaid wallet
The mermaid's purse is a shark egg shell that washes up on the shore.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

The mermaid's purse is a shark eggshell that washed ashore. When it's on the sand, it looks a lot like seaweed.

Each shark produces a slightly different mermaid purse, so the original shark species can be identified from the shell alone. Rays, chimeras, and rays also produce egg shells that look similar to shark shells. These are also colloquially known as mermaid purses.

Do Sharks Care For Their Young?

Hammerhead Shark Baby School
Sharks do not raise young that are born completely independent.

© Copyright EDGAR PHOTOSAPIENS/Shutterstock.com

No, sharks do not nurse their young . Sharks are born as fully independent miniature adults.

Some sharks release milk into the uterus during pregnancy. This usually happens after oviparous shark pups hatch but before they are born.

Which Sharks Lay Spiral Eggs?

Shark eggs 2
Some sharks lay spiral-shaped eggs and screw them into rocks.

©HollyHarry/Shutterstock.com

Bullhead sharks, Port Jackson sharks, and horn sharks are sharks that lay spiral eggs. They are designed to be screwed into rocky areas or into more turbulent areas of water where the tendrils of traditional eggshells are unsuitable.

The eggs are spiraled, making them harder to crack, but that doesn't stop some seals and snails. Snails drill through their shells and eat the yolks, so despite their specialization, spiral eggs are a good snack for some animals.

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Can you eat shark eggs?

Yes, you can eat unfertilized shark eggs. If you can find a retailer that sells whole sharks, you can find them on females that have been pulled from the ocean or at your local fishmonger. Buying a whole shark is like buying a whole pig to roast, so unless you're throwing a big party, you're better off finding eggs in freshly caught fish.

While egg-laying shark eggs with mermaid purses are inedible, unfertilized eggs found in sharks killed for other reasons are considered a treat for some.

Some of these eggs can be quite large, about the size of a chicken egg. They are often fried. Shark meat is a by-product of the fishing industry and is eaten in various ways around the world.

Monkeys in certain areas have been known to eat the contents of shark eggshells if they are close to the surface and the tide is at lowest. They bite open the shell with their sharp incisors and remove the shark and yolk sac inside.

Do shark pups eat each other?

Some oviparous shark pups cannibalize each other in utero. Sand tiger sharks lay a bunch of eggs in two wombs. As the eggs hatch, but before they are born, they begin to develop teeth.

Animals that develop teeth first cook with their smaller siblings and unhatched eggs. Only two cubs remain for their birthdays: one from each womb. This form of cannibalism is known as carnivore.

The fat-feeding behavior of tiger sharks may be due to competition between pups from different fathers. This is a parent-child battle in the womb.

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Another form of cannibalism involves sharks in utero eating surrounding unfertilized eggs. This is called autophagy. It is estimated that about 15 species of sharks practice this cannibalism.

Some oviparous mothers continue to produce unfertilized eggs for their babies throughout pregnancy. Research shows that the shark's teeth develop most during this egg-eating stage.

Why are mangroves an important habitat for pups?

The Oldest River - The Mangroves of the Delta
Mangroves create nurseries for shark pups.

©balajisrinivasan/Shutterstock.com

Mangroves are dense forests of plants adapted to tidal waters. Their thick root systems form an underwater maze in shallow water, which traps sediment and traps small animals within the maze it creates.

This is a different ecosystem than other coastal environments because of the unkempt bottom and ability to hide. It's an ideal place for certain shark species to deposit eggs or pups so they can hunt small prey and protect themselves until they're old enough to venture out into the open ocean.

Because shark pups are born completely independent, and most are born underfed, pups must begin searching for food almost immediately after birth. Right-sized fry of crustaceans, crabs, and other fish provide the perfect opportunity to eat the food they need to keep growing.

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