(StraightNews.org) – A female crocodile who has lived in isolation for two decades gave birth to a baby with 99.9% identical genetics. The reptile was kept alone in the Parque Reptilandia in Costa Rica since 2002 but could reproduce without a male partner. Scientists know that some animals can reproduce independently – including birds, some lizards, sharks, and snakes – but the phenomenon has never been seen in crocodiles.
The process of sole reproduction is known as “virgin birth,” and scientists believe the crocodile was able to produce young by herself due to her genetic relationship with her dinosaur ancestors. Dr. Warren Booth, who has studied “virgin births” for over a decade, said that animals on the verge of extinction can develop the ability to reproduce. This may have occurred in dinosaurs when their numbers dwindled due to environmental change.
The scientific name for the process is parthenogenesis and Dr. Brook believes it hasn’t been seen in crocodiles before because nobody was looking. “There was a big increase in reports of parthenogenesis when people started keeping pet snakes. But your average reptile keeper doesn’t keep a crocodile,” he said.
The first parthenogenesis birth in a python, the world’s largest snake, occurred in Louisville Zoo in Kentucky in 2012. The mother snake, named Thelma (who lived with her female friend Louise), was 20 feet long and weighed nearly 200 pounds. DNA revealed that Thelma was the sole parent of her baby, prompting stunned zookeeper Bill McMahan to declare, “We didn’t know what we were seeing.”
Scientific studies now find that female snakes reproduce independently even when males are available for breeding. Copperheads from Connecticut and Coppermouths from Georgia were closely observed in the wild, and researchers were surprised to discover that babies born to mothers in both species contained only her DNA, while males did not feature at all. This was the first time scientists learned that virgin births occur in the wild as well as in captivity.
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