Virgin birth for giant lizard

Scientists say komodo dragon case sheds new light on an endangered species.

    Keepers say Flora, the expectant mother, has never even mixed with male dragons [Reuters]


    "It is nature finding a way"

    Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo

    Flora's eight fertile eggs have been placed in an incubator to await the birth, which keepers say is expected sometime over the Christmas period.
     
    Genetic tests on three of the eggs revealed that Flora had no male help, scientists at Liverpool University in northern England reported in the journal Nature.
     
    Tests on the embryos and on Flora, her sister and other dragons have confirmed Komodo dragons are capable of findings of self-fertilisation.
     

    Eight baby Komodo dragons are expected
    around Christmas [Reuters]

    Kevin Buley of Chester Zoo said it was not unusual for females to lay a clutch of eggs in the absence of a male, but they had never before been found to be fertile.
     
    "This is absolutely the first time it's been shown in Komodo dragons, it's the first time that such a large and charismatic species such as this has been shown to be able to have a virgin birth."
     
    He said "nobody in their wildest dreams" expected such a development.
     
    "It is nature finding a way."
     
    Endangered
     
    Earlier this year, a Komodo dragon at London Zoo gave birth after being separated from males for more than two years.
     
    At the time scientists thought she had been able to delay conception following an encounter with a male.
     
    Buley said Flora was known to have never mated or even mixed with male Komodo dragons.
     
    "What we have shown here now is that an immature female can get washed to or swim to a new island and from that she can basically start a brand new population."
     
    Komodo dragons, the world's biggest lizards, are an endangered species with fewer than 4,000 left on the planet.
     
    Almost all of them live on the tiny volcanic island of Komodo in eastern Indonesia.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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