This page brings together videos on a variety of topics that form the background to The Virgin Birth of Sharks.
Some of these videos are included in parts of The Facts in the Fiction section of the book, while others are new additions that supplement TFITF.
Parthenogenesis (“virgin birth”) in Sharks and other Creatures
Let’s kick things off with a few videos about the phenomenon in the title of the book, virgin birth in sharks — that is, self-fertilization that takes place without mating, a process known as parthenogenesis.
In TFITF we saw three documented instances of parthenogenesis in sharks, one involving a blacktip shark named Tidbit who became pregnant even though there had been no male blacktips in her tank for eight years and she had only just reached sexual maturity. Tidbit died from unrelated causes and only when her body was examined was it discovered that she’d been pregnant.
Here Tidbit hits the news. One of the Youtube commenters wonders (a little crudely) if she had been impregnated before arriving at the zoo, but female sharks can’t viably store sperm for years and, as noted, Tidbit had just become sexually mature.
Although I don’t know if DNA testing was done in Tidbit’s case to establish that the pup’s DNA was identical to Tidbit’s — with no input from a father — this type of test was performed in the other two documented cases, establishing without doubt that parthenogenesis took place.
Here’s another report about Tidbit, although this one doesn’t mention her by name.
And earlier this year (2012) came a new report from Dubai about a shark named Zebedee, who lives in the Burj aAl Arab hotel’s aquarium
This video has no audio, but it has some great images of Zebedee and her daughters.
Lust and Pride and Carmen Miranda
The shark pups in The Virgin Birth of Sharks are unofficially known as Lust and Pride, after two of the seven deadly sins — a bit of black humor based on sharks’ deadly reputation. Their official names, though, are Carmen and Miranda.
I discuss Carmen Miranda in some detail in TFITF. She was the first Brazilian musical performer to conquer North America, paving the way for later musical trends like bossa nova and tropicália, as well as for the trope of the hot Brazilian woman. At one point she was the highest-paid woman in the United States.
In this video, filmed before she left Brazil, she performs O Que é Que a Baiana Tem? (more or less translated “what does a Bahian woman have?”).