— Keeping squabbling children apart is a problem that taxes all parents, but for the grey nurse shark it is a little more serious. Its embryos have a nasty habit of eating each other in the uterus.
This intra-uterine cannibalism means that despite starting a pregnancy with up to 40 embryos in her two uteruses, a female shark only gives birth to two pups. This is a real headache for Australian conservationists trying to save the species from extinction.
To allow the embryos to grow in peace, a team at Cronulla Fisheries Centre in New South Wales has built a prototype artificial uterus, in the shape of a 1-metre-long test tube. The embryos will be flushed from their mother and raised in the tanks, filled with a yet-to-be developed artificial uterine fluid.
The team hopes to raise up to 40 shark pups a year.