Shark Reproduction: How Many Offspring Do Sharks Have

Sharks, much like any other animal, must reproduce in order to keep the species alive. And considering the population of sharks, they do an awfully great job of it.

So you may be wondering exactly how many babies each shark will have. Well, throughout this article we’re going to talk about all things shark reproduction so you’ll be sure to find out! 

Shark Reproduction: How Many Offspring Do Sharks Have

Because there are so many different shark species, it’s quite difficult to give a singular number, especially since the reproduction process can vary so significantly between each species.

Some sharks will produce as little as one little shark baby, whereas others can produce close to 100. Mainly, it will all depend on whether you’ve got a viviparous, ovoviviparous, or oviparous shark.

If you are unsure as to what that means, fear not as all will be revealed soon! 

What Is The Name For Shark Offspring

First things first, let’s get the terminology down. A shark’s offspring is referred to as pups. A pup is very different from some younger offspring because they are super independent.

As soon as they are born they will learn how to adapt and survive and won’t need to be ‘brought up’ by their parents.

This is just as well because older sharks don’t really have maternal instincts or partake in parental care. The pups are even born with a full set of teeth and are instantaneously ready to hunt from birth. 

How Are Pups Born

This may come as a surprise,  but not all baby sharks are born the same way.

Depending on the species of shark there are three different ways that pups can be brought into the world and these include: viviparity, oviparity, and aplacental viviparity (ovoviviparity.)

Viviparity

In the case of viviparity, the mother shark will hatch her eggs from inside her own body. The embryos from these eggs will feed from the mother’s placenta.

This then transfers nourishment from the mother shark to the baby shark. All mother sharks that reproduce through viviparity will birth their young. 

A few examples of viviparity sharks are hammerheads, whale sharks, silvertip sharks, blue sharks, lemon sharks, and bull sharks.

These species of sharks tend to have a little that can be anywhere from as little as two pups to over 20 pups. 

Oviparity 

These types of sharks will lay their eggs. Generally, an oviparity shark will lay their eggs in particular locations of the ocean and leave them to hatch.

However, that is if they don’t get eaten by predators first which can happen quite often, especially since the lack of parental care means that they won’t guard the eggs. The little baby shark eggs are just left unattended. 

Species such as the horn shark, zebra shark, swellshark, and catsharks are all oviparity sharks.

The number of sharks that will survive is diminished compared to that of viviparity sharks since many of the eggs can be hunted by predators. 

Aplacental Viviparity (Ovoviviparity)

Aplacental Viviparity (Ovoviviparity)

Ovoviviparity sharks also hatch their eggs inside their bodies, however with these species of shark, they do it just before it is time to deliver them.

These types of sharks, unlike Viviparity sharks, do not feed through a placenta. Instead, the embryos will feed on the yolk of the egg until they hatch. 

Usually, these pups will be delivered as soon as they have hatched. However many of the pup embryos will come across several complications and making it to the hatching stage can actually be somewhat difficult.

This is because they may feed on unfertilized eggs, or even worse, the embryos can sometimes feed on each other. 

Great white sharks, sawsharks, tiger sharks, and sand tiger sharks are all examples of ovoviviparity sharks.

These sharks tend to have more offspring survive than oviparity sharks, but still many pups will not make it due to oophagy (the process of developing pups feeding off of one another.)

How Do Sharks Get Pregnant 

How sharks get pregnant is quite interesting and different, shall we say. A male shark impregnating a female shark is actually a fairly violent affair.

Many aquatic animals, especially fish, tend to go through external fertilization, but this isn’t the case for sharks who are fertilized internally.

But for the male to do so, they need to make sure they keep the female staying still. 

How do they keep the female shark still? Usually, they’ll bite onto her back or her fin in quite a violent way. Once the male has got the female into position he can then insert his ‘clasper’ into the females ‘cloaco.’

From here the male’s sperm will be transferred into the female where she will become pregnant. Once inseminated the male shark will abandon the female. 

How Long Are Sharks Pregnant For

Again, due to the wide variety of species, there isn’t a one fits all answer to this question. Unlike humans, different sharks can have different gestation periods.

Some sharks will be pregnant for around half a year, while others can be pregnant for upwards of two years. In fact, there is one particular species (the frilled shark) that can be pregnant for around three and a half years. 

Do Sharks Give Birth To More Than One Pup At A Time

Sharks can actually give birth to more than one offspring at a time. Unlike human pregnancies, they don’t have to birth each of their babies individually.

You may be surprised to learn that some sharks can actually even give birth to up to ten pups in one go.

Did you know that female sharks actually have two uteruses which means they are capable of carrying multiple embryos at a time? 

There is even research that has proven that sperm can be stored in the female’s womb. Once one pup is born the stored sperm can then instantly fertilize another developed egg to make more pups. 

How Many Pups Can Each Species Have At Once

How Many Pups Can Each Species Have At Once

Bull Shark

Most bull sharks will gestate for approximately a year. They are viviparous and so go through live birth.

Typically a bull shark will have anywhere between one to thirteen pups and they’ll be around 28 inches in size when they are born. 

Hammerhead Sharks

Hammerheads are another viviparous species of shark, but they tend to produce much more offspring that the species above.

Roughly, every one to two years a hammerhead will give birth to anywhere between six and forty-two pups. 

Tiger Sharks 

A tiger shark can produce quite a high number of offspring. In fact, they will often give birth to upwards of eighty pups. However, as they give birth through ovoviviparity not all of the pups will survive through to birth. 

Goblin Sharks

Goblin sharks are quite rare and don’t tend to be as well known as other species of shark. They are for the most part predators and do not tend to give birth to a large number of pups at all.

Due to their rarity, there isn’t much information about their reproductive habits. 

Great White Sharks

A great white shark has a fairly unique gestation period that lasts for approximately twelve months. Typically a great white will give birth to anywhere between two and a dozen pups at a time. 

Whale Sharks

Whale sharks can give birth to a considerable number of pups at one time. In fact, they can birth over 300 pups at once.

This may not be too surprising considering they are the largest of all the sharks. However, they are also oviparous sharks that lay eggs which does mean that predators may get to several of these pups. 

Blue Sharks

These types of sharks are viviparous and can give birth to anywhere between 25 and 100 pups at one time. 

Lemon Sharks

Lemon Sharks

Lemon sharks also give birth to their offspring and so are viviparous. Lemon sharks will give birth to up to 18 pups per litter. 

Silvertip Sharks

Silvertip sharks are viviparous sharks that will generally tend to give birth throughout the summer. When they do give birth they will usually give birth to around 11 baby sharks. 

Mako Sharks

Mako sharks are a species of shark where the larger pups tend to eat the smaller and weaker sharks in the womb. Mako sharks will usually produce anywhere between 8-10 pups at one time. 

Catsharks 

Catsharks lay eggs, but they actually give birth to eggs in pairs. Typically a catshark will produce anywhere between 40-50 eggs per year. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Shark Babies Stay With Mom?

No, once a mother gives birth the offspring are usually left to fend for themselves. However since the pups are born with a full set of teeth and are very independent from birth, it is very rarely an issue. 

Do Mom Sharks Eat Their Babies?

No, the mother herself will not consume her offspring. However with certain species of sharks, while they are in the womb the embryos can cannibalize their littermates. 

How Big Is A Shark Baby?

Pup sizes will greatly depend on the species of shark. A great white pup will be born at around 5 feet long (1.5 meters.) However, as it grows it may become up to four times that size. 

How Often Will A Shark Reproduce?

A shark will usually reproduce once every two to three years. It is very rare that a shark mating has actually ever been observed in the wild though, so there isn’t a plethora of information on shark mating. 

How Can You Tell A Shark Is Pregnant?

It is quite difficult to tell if a shark is pregnant as the only way to confirm the pregnancy for sure is to detect hormone indicators within their bloodstream or identify embryos or eggs with ultrasound. 

Can Sharks Have A Virgin Birth?

The phenomenon of a virgin birth in sharks is extremely rare, but not impossible. There have been observations of sharks in both aquariums and in the wild becoming pregnant without being internally fertilized. 

How Can A Shark Get Pregnant Without Mating?

Scientists first observed a case of asexual reproduction with a Zebra shark named Leonie. This happened through parthenogenesis which is when an embryo both develops and matures without the fertilization of a male’s sperm. 

Final Thoughts

So, after reading this article you should now be aware that the answer to the question ‘how many offspring does a shark have’ is it depends.

Each species of shark is completely different and so produces different-sized litters. Not only this but you should have also learned the different ways that different species of sharks give birth.

Sharks are certainly very beautiful and intelligent creatures and the high diversity of species makes them only the more interesting to learn about. 

Mikayla Adams

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