Newly identified self-cloning lizard found in Vietnam

Nov 11, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Image credit: L. Lee Grismer.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have just discovered that a small lizard, long known as a restaurant food item in southeastern Vietnam, is an all-female species that reproduces through "cloning" itself.

The lizard, Leiolepis ngovantrii, was found by Ngo Van Tri from the Academy of Science and Technology and classified by L. Lee Grismer, a herpetologist from La Sierra University in Riverside, California. The species was previously unknown to science, even though it has been eaten in the Mekong Delta region as long as anyone can remember.

Ngo first found the lizard at a restaurant in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, where live specimens were being kept in a tank. Ngo noticed all the individuals looked identical, and sent photographs to his colleague Grismer and his PhD student son Jesse. The Grismers identified the lizard as probably belonging to the Leiolepis genus, but in this genus males and females have different coloration, and the photographs showed only males. This made them suspect the consisted only of females.

The Grismers flew to Ho Chi Minh City and telephoned the restaurant to ask them to keep the lizards alive until they could get there eight hours later. By the time they arrived the “crazy guy” restaurant owner had got drunk and sold them all, but the scientists found more specimens at other restaurants, and were aided by local school children to find more in the wild. They found nearly 70 of the lizards altogether, and all were females.

The findings, published in the journal ZOOTAXA, also identified unique rows of enlarged scales on its forelimbs and bone layers (lamellae) under their toes. Grismer said the species, which lives in a transition zone between coastal sand dunes and scrub, may be a hybrid of two related species of maternal and paternal lizards that thrive in the separate habitats.

Genetic testing of mitochondrial DNA has identified the maternal species as L. guttata, but the paternal species is not yet known. (Mitochondrial DNA is passed down only through females.)

The newly described species is not the only one that reproduces through cloning, since around one percent of lizard species reproduce with no contribution from males, by a process known as parthenogenesis (from the Greek for virgin birth). In this process the ovum contains a full complement of chromosomes and develops into an embryo without being fertilized. Parthenogenesis also occurs, but rarely, in fish and invertebrates, especially insects such as aphids, and has been artificially induced in mice and other species.

The Leiolepis ngovantrii species is not rare in the area in which it was found, but some herpetologists such as Charles Cole of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, think as a hybrid species it may be more prone to extinction because of the reduced genetic variation from one generation to the next. Cole said unisexual species do not generally survive as long as other species of , but they can be healthier in the short term.

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More information: ZOOTAXA paper (PDF): www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2010/f/z02433p061f.pdf

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User comments : 14

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Nincompoop
5 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2010
"By the time they arrived the “crazy guy” restaurant owner had got drunk and sold them all [...]".
What in the world??
..

Was not expecting that.
Skeptic_Heretic
2.9 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2010
Where are all the Bible bangers? I'm surprised they didn't jump all over this article.
mjporter
5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2010
It's a pretty new article, give it time. And in the meantime, don't go splicing their DNA into cloned dinosaurs...
epsi00
5 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2010
few days ago I heard on the radio ( CBC canada ) of this anaconda female which cloned itself and now this. so it's far more common than we previously thought.
A2G
1.3 / 5 (27) Nov 11, 2010
Where are all the Bible bangers? I'm surprised they didn't jump all over this article.

You brought religion in first..I thought you didn't believe in religion? What does this have to do with the Bible any ways? Why is it the people against religious views the first to bring it up and are the most religious people I have ever met?

Religious is the belief in something without proof. Prove there is no God..You might believe it with all you are, but you cannot prove it. Face it, Skeptic, you are religious.
snwboardn
3 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2010
Where are all the Bible bangers? I'm surprised they didn't jump all over this article.


How do you figure? I would probably be considered what you call a "bible banger"... So, please tell me what you think I should be jumping all over.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 11, 2010
Religious is the belief in something without proof. Prove there is no God..You might believe it with all you are, but you cannot prove it. Face it, Skeptic, you are religious.
I don't hold that there isn't a god. I hold that the theist gods don't exist. Big difference. Secondly, the burden of proof is upon those making a claim. I don't make claims contrary to observation. No observation of a God means the faithful hold the burden of proof.

Your accusations are silly. Grow up.
How do you figure? I would probably be considered what you call a "bible banger"... So, please tell me what you think I should be jumping all over.

The Bible bangers would be the local group of young earth creationists who believe in literal interpretation. Do you agree with them or are you rational in your belief?
krundoloss
not rated yet Nov 11, 2010
People, what are you even talking about. So lizards can clone themselves. So do bacteria and all other kinds of lifeforms. Its normal, so please come up with something to argue about other than who is or is not a Bible banger. geez.
panorama
5 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2010
My god is fine with cloning, but as we all know, sex is more fun.
braindead
5 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2010
On the other hand - eating stir-fried lizard cooked by drunk crazy guy sounds altogether less fun. As Crocodile Dundee said - "Yeah mate - you can eat it - tastes like shit."

braindead
5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2010
A case of pathenogenesis in a great ape species, progeny male, has been widely reported in some quarters and vehemently denied in others. The origin of the species involved has also been under discussion for some time too.
LivaN
5 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2010
Religious is the belief in something without proof. Prove there is no God..You might believe it with all you are, but you cannot prove it.


Come on now, that is just poor reasoning.
Husky
not rated yet Nov 14, 2010
so, speaking on behalve of the Bible, here is an important clue that Mary could have received Jesus by parthogenesis, or the milkman...
tonybr777
not rated yet Nov 14, 2010
Religious is the belief in something without proof.....


Sounds like String Theory.