The population success of sharks is undoubtedly due to an excellent method of reproduction. In most fish species, the female releases eggs onto the seabed for the male to fertilize, resulting in many eggs being lost to predators. Sharks, on the other hand, have internal fertilization.
Considering the size and shape of these animals, the introduction of the male’s claspers (penis) into the female is not a straightforward process. That’s why nature has equipped males with two claspers to make copulation more viable. The male will insert a single clasper into the female, depending on her position.
These organs are also retractable, allowing them to rotate on their base and facilitating their insertion. Copulation can last from ten seconds to two hours, depending on the species. Nearly four liters of seminal fluid have been extracted from a 350-kilogram tiger shark, ensuring the success of the act.
With copulation comes courtship. During this courtship, males swim close to the female’s cloaca, nibbling on her flanks and pectoral fins, causing deep wounds that will become scars. Contrary to what one might believe, this behavior predisposes the females to copulate. Finally, the male bites the female’s pectoral fin firmly, believed to provide leverage and ensure the insertion of the clasper. The gestation period can last from nine to twenty-two months, depending on the species.
“One cannot defend what one does not love, and one cannot love what one does not know.”