I blogged about the possibility of parthenogenesis in mammals a month or so ago. Here’s another newly discovered case of it in a higher animal.
Virgin Dragon Prepares to Give Birth
Dec 20, 1:36 PM (ET)
By MARIA CHENG
CHESTER, England (AP) – In an evolutionary twist, Flora the Komodo dragon has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. She is carrying seven baby Komodo dragons.
“We were blown away when we realized what she’d done,” said Kevin Buley, a reptile expert at Flora’s home at the Chester Zoo in this town in northern England. “But we certainly won’t be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.”
Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora’s virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.
The reptiles, renowned for their intelligence, are native to Indonesia. They are the world’s largest lizards and have no natural predators – making them on par with sharks and lions at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom.
The cases of Flora and the London lizard, Sungai, are described in a paper published Thursday in Nature.
Parthenogenesis is a process in which eggs become embryos without male fertilization. It has been seen in about 70 species, including snakes and lizards. Scientists are unsure whether female Komodo dragons have always had this latent ability to reproduce or if this is a new evolutionary development.