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Locomotion is not a privilege after birth: Ultrasound images of viviparous shark embryos swimming from one uterus to the other

Tomita, Taketeru, Murakumo, Kiyomi, Ueda, Keiichi, Ashida, Hiroshi, Furuyama, Rina
Ethology 2019 v.125 no.2 pp. 122-126
Ginglymostoma cirratum, animal behavior, eggs, mammals, pregnancy, sharks, uterus, vivipary (animals)
Underwater ultrasound, a new tool for observing the internal body parts of aquatic animals by scuba divers, allowed us long‐term and frequent observations of the embryos of captive aquatic vertebrates. New ultrasound data of captive tawny nurse sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus) revealed that their embryos frequently migrate between the right and left uteri during gestation. This report is the first reliable evidence of active embryonic locomotion in live‐bearing vertebrates and is contradictory to the concept of “sedentary embryo” which has mainly arisen from studies of mammals. The tawny nurse shark is unique among orectolobiform sharks, in which the embryo develops by feeding on sibling eggs in utero. Thus, we hypothesized that swimming aids in an efficient search and capture of these eggs in the uterine environment.