Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Virgin Birth for Dragons

Flora the Komodo dragon has become pregnant 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.

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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.

Cited story.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    December 20, 2006

    “But we certainly won’t be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.”

    Spoilsport! Bow down before your new Overlord and worship!

  2. #2 llewelly
    December 20, 2006

    “But we certainly won’t be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.”

    Pity. I was looking forward to using the line: ‘Jesus, you’ve got bad breath!’

  3. #3 Matt
    December 20, 2006

    Likely the ability to reproduce parthenogenetically has been selected for in these types of animals that are at least somewhat likely to be single foundresses of islands, etc.

    To even consider this as a potential “new adaptation” is really outlandish. After all, we are talking about animals held in zoos, in low populations, for few generations…

  4. #4 JPS
    December 21, 2006

    There’s a story in the NY Times (via AP). The dragon was raised it’s whole life in captivity and never exposed to a male dragon. Very interesting.

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Virgin-Dragon.html

  5. #5 David Harmon
    December 21, 2006

    “The dragon was raised it’s whole life in captivity and never exposed to a male dragon. ”

    Well, that would seem to be the appropriate trigger! ;-)

  6. #6 Matt
    December 21, 2006

    QUOTE: “Well, that would seem to be the appropriate trigger.”

    RESPONSE: Evolution/adaptation is something that happens in populations over many generations- not in just one lizard during it’s own lifetime.