The life cycle of a shark can vary depending on the species of shark, however generally a shark can live between 20 and 30 years. Overall, there are around 5 stages of a shark’s life cycle.
A shark’s life cycle begins with fertilization, and then it moves onto the incubation and gestation stage. This is followed by the birthing stage, and we move onto the growing period.
Then we end with adulthood and reproduction, and the cycle begins all over again.
In this article, we will be going over the 5 stages of a shark’s life cycle. So that you can have a better understanding of the life cycle of a shark.
Stage 1: Fertilization
The very first step in any animal’s life cycle, including sharks, is the fertilization process. The mating process between sharks is a very rare thing to see.
Scientists and researchers have struggled to truly know what happens as it is a very elusive process, which is rarely seen by anyone.
Generally, the female shark’s egg is fertilized internally. A male shark will mate with a female shark of the same species.
It is known that the pelvic fin on a male shark, which is found on the underside of their body, is commonly found quite close to their tail.
This pelvic fin is said to have evolved into claspers. This is an organ which can be compared to a penis in male humans.
Once the sharks have mated and fertilized the egg, then the next stage can begin.
Stage 2: Incubation And Gestation
The next stage is the incubation process. However, depending on the species of the shark, there are three ways that a shark may decide to carry their young. The following are the main three ways a shark may carry their young, and they will use one of these methods.
- Oviparity – There are some species of sharks that will lay their eggs in a leathery case. This will help to protect the eggs from any dangers.
- Viviparity – This term is used when sharks create a placenta where they sustain and feed their young. The young are then born at full time and alive, thus a similar process to humans.
- Ovoviviparity – For most sharks, they will lay their eggs inside their body. Then the young hatch in their body and will be born once they have fully developed. Although, it is known that some sharks can show traits of cannibalism. Thus, the first one to hatch can be known to eat the other eggs while still inside their mother.
No one is certain what the gestation period is for this method. Although it can be between several months up to 2 years in some cases.
There are some rare cases of asexual reproduction. Which means a female shark has produced pups without the need of a male.
All these cases have been seen in captivity, so the reason for this occurring in the wild is still unknown. Some people believe that is a last resort, when there aren’t enough males around.
Stage 3: Birth
Sharks don’t do a lot for their young. Once the pups have been born and are in the water. They will often swim away, and the pups must care for themselves. Litter sizes can vary between 100 to just 2.
It is known that Great White Sharks will birth between 3 and 14 pups. All the pups will generally be well-developed. Compared to a lot of other animals, that will birth a vast number of young that are underdeveloped.
Stage 4: Growing
During the growing period, the majority of sharks will stay near their birthing place, until they reach adulthood. However, as a lot of sharks are born near coastal areas, a lot of them actually die due to human invention and impact on their natural habitats.
The growing period is really slow for a shark. It can take up to 15 years for a shark to become an adult. With a lot of sharks never reaching adulthood and dying early on.
Stage 5: Adulthood And Reproduction
With this final stage, once a shark has become an adult they can then reproduce. However, reproduction with a shark isn’t as simple as it is with other animals.
Male sharks technically have two penises, which are also known as claspers. These then hold onto a female, so that they can insert their sperm.
Overall, sharks will generally die after 20 to 20 years, but some species like the Whale Sharks can live for over a century.
We hope you have enjoyed this article, and have a better understanding of the 5 stages of a shark’s life cycle.