A LONE female shark who gave birth to a puppy on January 3, which was eaten by a tank friend two days later, had left the staff in the Urangan aquarium looking for answers.
A nervous whale shark came from the waters of the Fraser Coast about six years ago and has lived alone on the Reefworld Neptunes tank during that time.
Even though the poor puppy met cod or the hungry groper, the doctor and ecologist at the Sunshine Coast University, Dominique Potvin said "virgin birth" was still an interesting event.
Scientifically known as parthenogenesis, Ms Potvin said the process was rare in vertebrate species.
This is common in invertebrate species such as stick insects and other fish but not sharks. "This is very unusual and very rare because all stars must align this to happen," Potvin said.
"It did happen but we don't know about it in the shark all that time.
"Basically, if a woman feels that a man hasn't been there for a very long time sometimes his body will try and reproduce too.
"Usually this won't work, but sometimes small eggs find what is called the body of a polar sister, which is like two cells gathered rather than eggs or sperm."
Potvin said baby sharks born from this genetic process could be harmed, with the possibility of low survival.
"The problem is, once that happens, babies will only have genetics from half of what they should … without mixing genes, that is the most innate for you.
"Eating by a groper is one thing but it might not last that long."
In the last 30 years the family has been in business, Greg Wolff has seen local corals and a sea snake alone reproduces on its own but never sharks.
"It's really surprising and it's funny because when you look for information about why it happened, it doesn't really line up," he said.
"They all said sharks were holding semen inside for four years and things like that but he had been here longer than that.
"A lot of things happen here that make marine biologists shake their heads … the number one thing is to keep the coral alive, live and grow in the tank.
"It's kind of difficult for some marine biologists to move their heads, but it works."
As for the puppy's death, Mr Wolff said it was anyone's guess about who was the culprit who was hungry and – without notice of the upcoming birth – no suitable tank was available.
"It's just one of those things … he's in a captive environment and we don't go out of our way to breed, the next thing he has a puppy in the water and we don't really have anywhere else to put him . "
"Unfortunately I think one of the cod decided that they liked it better.
"We don't know exactly who, but there are only a few fish there that are big enough to make the whole shark completely disappear."
Mr Wolff said the aquarium is open every day from school holidays, with staff too happy to guide visitors to meet and greet their star sharks.