Friday, 14 September 2012

Virgin births discovered in wild snakes

A form of virgin birth has been found in wild vertebrates for the first time.
Researchers in the US caught pregnant females from two snake species and genetically analysed the litters.
That proved the North American pit vipers reproduced without a male, a phenomenon called facultative parthenogenesis that has previously been found only in captive species.
Scientists say the findings could change our understanding of animal reproduction and vertebrate evolution.
It was thought to be extremely rare for a normally sexual species to reproduce asexually.
First identified in domestic chickens, such "virgin births" have been reported in recent years in a few snake, shark, lizard and bird species.
Crucially though, all such virgin births have occurred in captivity, to females kept away from males.
Virgin births in vertebrates in general have been viewed as "evolutionary novelties", said Warren Booth, from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, US.

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