Virgin lizard reproduces

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus)

A Nile monitor lizard has produced an offspring without ever performing sexual intercourse or coming in contact with male monitor. This is the first time parthenogenesis has been witnessed among this particular species. The 10-year-old, 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long lizard named Nice, came from the African nation of Ghana as a hatchling. It is currently housed in a reptile zoo in Kilkenny, Ireland. This species of Monitor lizard is common to West and Central Africa.

The discovery was reported by James Hennesy, in charge of the lizards at Reptile Village Zoo in Kilkenny.

Nice is one of the two female monitors kept at the zoo. Nasty is the other. When both monitors laid eggs, they were put in an incubator together. Hennessy said, "both the lizards lay eggs most years, but we usually just throw them out. I decided to put the eggs in an incubator and see what happened. I'm still not one hundred percent sure why I did it this year, but I'm glad I did."

Unfortunately the baby monitor was too weak to fully hatch from its egg and died before it could. Hennessy knew there was a problem when the egg failed to hatch within the normal 180 day period. When he opened one of the eggs, he found the baby monitor lifeless, but fully formed. The baby lizard's remains have now been preserved in the zoo.

"It's a huge deal," Hennessy said, "It's just absolutely amazing. It's still quite hard to believe, but I'll be keeping a close eye on the eggs from now on. My theory behind it would be that I’ve a female here who has never seen another male in her life. As far as she is concerned, she’s in a habitat where it looks to her like there are no males around. She needs to keep her species going, so she needs to repopulate."

In May of 2007, it was reported that blood samples taken from a Hammerhead shark, born in 2001, located in Omaha Nebraska at the Henry Doorly Zoo was the product of a "virgin birth". The mother shark was in a tank with three other hammerheads, all female, and the baby shark was also born in the same tank. Tests on the DNA from the baby shark show that there was no "chromosomal contribution" of a male shark present in the blood, something that is required in order for mating to have taken place.

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