Shark Pups in the Womb

Have you ever seen shark pups in the womb?

Until recently, it wasn’t possible. Now, amazingly, you can.

Dr. James Sulikowski and Dr. Neil Hammerschlag have captured images of several shark pups still inside their mother’s womb using sonogram technology.

Sulikowski, who is from the University of New England Department of Marine Science teamed with Hammerschlag, from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and headed to the Bahamas in search of pregnant tiger sharks.


The two, along with researchers and students from their schools, were able to catch a 12 1/2-foot tiger shark and named her Emily.  The team secured Emily to a small platform attached to the rear of their research vessel and began the examination.

Emily was found to be carrying at least 20 healthy shark pups. Each sharkling was around 40 to 45 centimeters long. The sonogram was so clear, the pups’ teeth were visible.

“Historically, if you wanted to see if a tiger shark was pregnant, you would have to cut her up. (If) we aren’t sacrificing humans to determine if they’re pregnant, why can’t we do it for sharks?” Hammerschlag wondered.

Emily was tagged with both an acoustic and satellite tag. Using data from the tags, the group may be able to find out where tiger sharks go to give birth.

“One nice thing about combining this technology, satellite tags with the ultrasound, is that we will know where these pregnant females go. If they go to a certain area, this nursery ground to give birth, then we can protect that area, which would advance and allow us to conserve and manage this species much better,” Sulikowski said.

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