Science Shows One in Four Pregnant Sharks and Rays Will Abort Their Young When Captured

Australian researchers have found a quarter of pregnant sharks and rays abort their pups when captured, revealing a little-known risk to the survival of the slow-growing animals.

An analysis of recorded instances of sharks and rays either aborting their pups or undergoing a premature birth once captured found 24% of pregnant females across 88 species lost their young. In some species, such as the pelagic stingray, the rate of abortion on capture was 85%.

The research, published in the journal Biological Conservation this week, also examined 40 videos of live births of sharks and rays posted on social media and found that in most cases the videos actually showed a trauma-induced abortion.

It said pregnancy loss through capture-induced abortions was a “largely unreported, often misinterpreted and poorly understood” phenomenon that nonetheless had a “potentially pervasive effect” on population and recovery levels.

Lead researcher Kye Adams, a PhD student from the University of Wollongong, said recreational fishers and marine researchers should be educated about the risk of inducing an abortion when catching a pregnant shark, ray or skates.

Photo: Albert Kok/WIkimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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