New video documented by a graduate student researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego features a litter of 20 leopard sharks born April 19 inside the Scripps Experimental Aquarium. Each pup is about eight inches long at the moment but will grow to up to six feet in length as adults.
Scripps graduate student Andy Nosal is conducting genetic research on leopard sharks, which congregate in La Jolla, Calif., between mid-spring and mid-autumn. Because a single litter can have multiple fathers, Nosal will conduct paternity tests on each of the newborn sharks (not unlike genetic testing in humans) as part of his doctoral studies to determine how many different male leopard sharks fathered the 20 pups. The younglings, which are consuming a fine dining menu of bay scallops, eventually will be released into the wild.
The four-and-a-half-foot mother shark is doing fine following the birth, which culminated a pregnancy that can last up to 12 months for leopard sharks.