'Miracle' stingray dies after fascinating internet with pregnancy without a male

After announcing Charlotte's pregnancy in February, the small North Carolina aquarium gained internet fame posting videos with updates. This week, Team ECCO said Charlotte had died after suffering from a "reproductive disease."

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – Charlotte, a round stingray at an aquarium in North Carolina, died this week after earning international attention and speculation for her "miracle" pregnancy without a male companion

The Aquarium and Shark Lab by Team ECCO in Hendersonville announced Charlotte's pregnancy in February and noted she does not share a tank with a male of her species. The aquarium estimated she could give birth to up to four pups within two weeks.


However, as weeks turned to months and no pups were born, public interest in Charlotte grew, as did the theories about her health. According to the California State University Shark Lab, a normal gestation for a round stingray is between 3 and 4 months.

The leading theory about Charlotte's pregnancy was that it happened via parthenogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs, meaning no genetic contribution from a male. 

In mid-May, the aquarium turned off commenting on its Facebook posts after receiving backlash, some calling Charlotte's pregnancy a "publicity stunt."

The aquarium provided an update on May 30, saying Charlotte had a "rare reproductive disease" but did not share any additional details about the disease or if she was ever pregnant. The aquarium said it worked with specialists to understand the disease and treatment options better.

On June 5, the Aquarium and Shark Lab said Charlotte was "no longer pregnant due to her reproductive disease" but was "stable."

The aquarium remained closed from June 1 through early June as teams continued to work on Charlotte's medical care, according to Facebook updates.

With no other updates throughout June, the aquarium announced Charlotte had died on Monday.

"We are sad to announce, after continuing treatment with her medical care team and specialist, our ray Charlotte passed away today," a statement posted to Facebook read. "The Team ECCO family appreciates your continued love and support while we navigate this great loss."

The aquarium remained closed this week after Charlotte's death.