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'Virgin births' for giant lizards post #1  quote:



BBC News Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 18:03 GMT




There have been two reported cases of Komodo dragon "virgin births"



The largest lizards in the world are capable of "virgin births".
Scientists report of two cases where female Komodo dragons have produced offspring without male contact.

Tests revealed their eggs had developed without being fertilised by sperm - a process called parthenogenesis, the team wrote in the journal Nature.

One of the reptiles, Flora, a resident of Chester Zoo in the UK, is awaiting her clutch of eight eggs to hatch, with a due-date estimated around Christmas.

Kevin Buley, a curator at Chester Zoo and a co-author on the paper, said: "Flora laid her eggs at the end of May and, given the incubation period of between seven and nine months, it is possible they could hatch around Christmas - which for a 'virgin birth' would finish the story off nicely.

"We will be on the look-out for shepherds, wise men and an unusually bright star in the sky over Chester Zoo."

Flora, who has never been kept with a male Komodo dragon, produced 11 eggs earlier this year. Three died off, providing the material needed for genetic tests.


Flora had never been kept with male Komodo dragons

These revealed the offspring were not exact genetic copies (clones) of their mother, but their genetic make-up was derived just from her.

The team concluded they were a result of asexual reproduction, and are waiting for the remaining eight eggs to hatch.

Abnormal phenomenon?

Another captive-bred female called Sungai, at London Zoo in the UK, produced four offspring earlier this year - more than two years after her last contact with a male, the scientists reported in the same paper.

Again, genetic tests revealed the Komodo dragon babies, which are healthy and growing normally, were produced through parthenogenesis.

Sungai was also able to reproduce sexually, producing another baby offspring after mating with a male called Raja.

Maybe parthenogenesis is much more widespread and common than previously considered.



Richard Gibson, an author on the paper and a curator at the Zoological Society of London, said: "Parthenogenesis has been described before in about 70 species of vertebrates, but it has always been regarded to be a very unusual, perhaps abnormal phenomenon."

It has been shown in some snakes, fish, a monitor lizard and even a turkey, he said.

"But we have seen this in two separate, unrelated female Komodo dragons within a year, so this suggests maybe parthenogenesis is much more widespread and common than previously considered."

He added: "Because these animals were in captivity for years without male access, they reproduced parthenogenetically.


Sungai's offspring are doing well

"But the ability to reproduce parthenogenetically is obviously an ancestral capability."

He said the lizards could make use of the ability to reproduce asexually when, for example, a lone female was washed up alone on an island with no males to breed with.

Because of the genetics of this process, he added, her children would always be male.

This is because Komodo dragons have W and Z chromosomes - females have one W and one Z, males have two Zs.

The egg from the female carries one chromosome, either a W or Z, and when parthenogenesis takes place, either the W or Z is duplicated.

This leads to eggs which are WW and ZZ. WW eggs are not viable, but ZZ eggs are, and lead to male baby Komodo dragons.

And like Sungai, she would be able to switch back to sexual reproduction, so she could breed to establish a new colony.

There are fewer than 4,000 Komodo dragons in the wild, and they are found in three islands in Indonesia: Komodo, Flores and Rinca.

Adult males can grow up to 3m (10ft) in length and weigh up to 90kg (200lb) - making them the biggest lizards on the planet.

The researchers said that, to ensure genetic diversity of Komodo dragons kept in captivity, zoos should perhaps keep males and females together to avoid asexual reproduction.


Old Post 12-24-2006 05:41 AM
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post #2  quote:

This is a very interesting read. I would like to know what happens after Flora's eggs hatch. Will there be more komodo dragons... and will they be all males?

Old Post 12-24-2006 08:46 AM
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post #3  quote:

I think so. They will all be male.


In the Island scenario, in the wild, the male offspring would mate with their mother later, and have normal children, male and female.


You would be able to call them MOFO's and be within your scientific rights.


Old Post 12-24-2006 05:43 PM
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post #4  quote:

Yeah, I guess that they would be MOFO's.


I guess that you have to do whatever you can to keep your species alive. But, I have to say... if there was absolutely no one left on this earth except myself, and my father, or my brother, there would be NO breeding happening there. I just couldn't sleep with my own family members.


Old Post 12-24-2006 07:28 PM
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post #5  quote:

Agreed. It's pretty weird the animal kingdom does it. I guess that's why there are so few of them.


That is freaky though, that they can reproduce like that, it's like Jurassic Park when the dino's were all female, but they did the same thing, had babies on their own. At the time, I thought that was crazy stuff, now I see it is at least possible if not probable.


Old Post 12-24-2006 09:11 PM
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post #6  quote:

Yes, I completely remember that in the Jurassic Park movie, and I had no idea that it was possible. But, after that movie, I remember wanting to find out if that was truth, and reading some scientific info about it. It's amazing, that there are animals which can do such a thing.

I remember when I was a kid, and I had this bird. She started laying an egg, every once in awhile. I was like... ummmmmmmmmmmm, she's in that cage alone. My mom told me that since there was no male in the cage, that the egg wasn't fertilized... but, that she still needed to lay the egg.

It's just a part of life. And amazing part of the gigantic circle that we call life.


Old Post 12-24-2006 10:30 PM
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post #7  quote:

So is this like the lizard Jesus or what?

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Old Post 12-26-2006 05:19 PM
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post #8  quote:

A lizard Jesus would come back to life after getting killed. This is more like the lizard Mary.

Old Post 12-26-2006 05:21 PM
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post #9  quote:

Well, what about lizard Mary's kid. Lizard Mary had a child without knowing the lizard touch?

-HECK!


Old Post 12-26-2006 05:25 PM
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post #10  quote:

Maybe if it grew it's tail back, that might be good enough. Spontaneous regeneration.


Man, Lizards are fregin insane with the miraculous.


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post #11  quote:

Lizards had to propogate this way. The females are so ugly that the males don't even want to do them.

Old Post 12-27-2006 04:34 AM
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post #12  quote:

I didn't even think about that. Too funny, sis!!!

Old Post 12-27-2006 04:59 AM
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post #13  quote:

Fuggly lizard ho's need love too.

This is interesting though. Without another DNA strand will the offspring be a clone?

-HECK!


Old Post 12-27-2006 05:06 PM
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post #14  quote:

I don't know if it would be an exact clone or not. Have there been tests on the other lizards born?

Then again, if they are born, male, they couldn't really be an "exact" clone, could they?


Old Post 12-27-2006 05:15 PM
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post #15  quote:

Yeah, if it's a dude lizard it's not a clone at all. I know there are plenty of organisms that reproduce a-sexually. And there are some reptiles with both male and female organs but from what I read here this is pretty remarkable for that lizard.

-HECK!


Old Post 12-27-2006 05:50 PM
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post #16  quote:

Maybe I should read the article more closely next time...

"These revealed the offspring were not exact genetic copies (clones) of their mother, but their genetic make-up was derived just from her.

The team concluded they were a result of asexual reproduction, and are waiting for the remaining eight eggs to hatch. "

Said it even happened to turkey. So what's to say it couldn't happen to a human?

-HECK!


Old Post 12-27-2006 05:52 PM
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