New species of lizard created in lab that reproduces by cloning itself

May 06, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Image credit: PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102811108

(PhysOrg.com) -- A genetics research group working in a lab in Kansas, has succeeded in creating a new species of lizard by mating two distinct species of North American Whiptails, both native to New Mexico. The offspring, all females are not only fertile, but can reproduce by laying eggs that don't need to be fertilized, which means, they actually clone themselves.

Scientists have known for years that some exist due to interspecies mating, the whiptail have provided proof of that; they’ve been creating new species themselves for at least several hundred thousand years. What’s new is the process being manipulated by another species, us, Homo sapiens. Geneticists have been trying for years to create a new breed of pretty much anything by urging lab “volunteers” of differing species to mate with one another, not exactly earth shaking science when you consider a dog that tries to mate with a human leg. Efforts such as these are, not surprisingly, more often successful than not; the problem is, the offspring are usually infertile, such as mules, or too weak to survive. The trick has been to create a new species that is able to both survive and reproduce, because otherwise, it can’t really be called a new species if it only exists for the duration of one generation.

In a paper published in PNAS, lead researcher Peter Baumann of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, describes how he and his team paired an A.inornata male with an A.exsanguis female resulting in six ; all of which hatched, resulting in young lizards that were more similar to the female than the male, save a bit of blue tint on the tails. Each also had four copies of their parental genes (normally there’s just two), three from their mother, the other from their father. They were also all female and all able to reproduce by cloning themselves.

Not only have the initial lizards survived and reproduced, so too have their ; the lizards are currently in their fourth generation, leading to the inevitable question of whether they should be given a name. Baumann is hesitant to do so as it’s likely to court controversy from the biology/genetics community as the new species hasn’t yet been given the opportunity to show that it can exist outside of a lab, though the team members certainly believe it’s capable of doing so.

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More information: Laboratory synthesis of an independently reproducing vertebrate species, PNAS, Published online before print May 4, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102811108

Abstract
Speciation in animals commonly involves an extrinsic barrier to genetic exchange followed by the accumulation of sufficient genetic variation to impede subsequent productive interbreeding. All-female species of whiptail lizards, which originated by interspecific hybridization between sexual progenitors, are an exception to this rule. Here, the arising species instantaneously acquires a novel genotype combining distinctive alleles from two different species, and reproduction by parthenogenesis constitutes an effective intrinsic barrier to genetic exchange. Fertilization of diploid parthenogenetic females by males of sexual species has produced several triploid species, but these instantaneous speciation events have neither been observed in nature nor have they been reconstituted in the laboratory. Here we report the generation of four self-sustaining clonal lineages of a tetraploid species resulting from fertilization of triploid oocytes from a parthenogenetic Aspidoscelis exsanguis with haploid sperm from Aspidoscelis inornata. Molecular and cytological analysis confirmed the genetic identity of the hybrids and revealed that the females retain the capability of parthenogenetic reproduction characteristic of their triploid mothers. The tetraploid females have established self-perpetuating clonal lineages which are now in the third generation. Our results confirm the hypothesis that secondary hybridization events can lead to asexual lineages of increased ploidy when favorable combinations of parental genomes are assembled. We anticipate that these animals will be a critical tool in understanding the mechanisms underlying the origin and subsequent evolution of asexual amniotes.

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User comments : 27

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semmsterr
4 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
Fascinating!
DavidMcC
not rated yet May 06, 2011
Do they have functioning gonads, I wonder. If so, there is an outside chance that any that were released into the wild would eventually get tempted to mate with a male of a closely related species. Therefore, any release should not be in a region containing any closely related species.
Na_Reth
5 / 5 (6) May 06, 2011
Have we tried a human/lizard yet?
ArkavianX
3.5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
As for the two initial species, both existing in North America, I hate to point out the obvious but the offspring are still whiptails. They apparently don't seem to be that 'DISTINCT' as two species IE both parental lines have yet to truly sever there branches entirely. If anything, this hybridization just rebuilt the bridge between the two.

Donutz
4.6 / 5 (21) May 06, 2011
Have we tried a human/lizard yet?


Donald Trump.
aroc91
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2011
DavidMcC, if you read the article, you'd answer your own question. Hell, if you read the first paragraph, you'd answer your own question.
skajam66
2.7 / 5 (3) May 06, 2011
@Na Reth - "Have we tried a human/lizard yet?"

@Donutz - "Donald Trump"

Correct response only if the "/" was replaced with " " in the question
thales
5 / 5 (3) May 06, 2011
As for the two initial species, both existing in North America, I hate to point out the obvious but the offspring are still whiptails. They apparently don't seem to be that 'DISTINCT' as two species IE both parental lines have yet to truly sever there branches entirely. If anything, this hybridization just rebuilt the bridge between the two.


"Whiptail" describes the genus. This is indeed a new species.
Isaacsname
3 / 5 (2) May 06, 2011
I'm confused. This is different than the normal gene expression, but how is it cloning ? Wouldn't that be asexual reproduction ?
Quantum_Conundrum
3.5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
I'm confused. This is different than the normal gene expression, but how is it cloning ? Wouldn't that be asexual reproduction ?


Yes, it's called "Parthenogenesis". It happens in certain reptiles and amphibians, because their sex chromosomes work differently. In some cases, you can get combinations that allow a female parent to have female offspring asexually.

I haven't actually seen anything that I recall regarding whether such females can reproduce sexually with males to produce male offspring...
Isaacsname
not rated yet May 06, 2011
I'm confused. This is different than the normal gene expression, but how is it cloning ? Wouldn't that be asexual reproduction ?


Yes, it's called "Parthenogenesis". It happens in certain reptiles and amphibians, because their sex chromosomes work differently. In some cases, you can get combinations that allow a female parent to have female offspring asexually.

I haven't actually seen anything that I recall regarding whether such females can reproduce sexually with males to produce male offspring...


Thanks.
ArkavianX
not rated yet May 06, 2011

"Whiptail" describes the genus. This is indeed a new species.


Any species that can even remotely procreate with another species is an incomplete divergence, they have not completely become separate species.
Jonseer
2.5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
Oh great, so scientists are spending our tax dollars creating lesbian lizards. (just kidding).

I think this is very cool.

But should the tea party types ever hear of it we should expect to hear about money wasted creating lesbian lizards that don't need male lizards to reproduce!
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011

I am a douchebag


I concur.
GenesisNemesis
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011
Have we tried a human/lizard yet?


Donald Trump.


I must say, that was quite "splitting" of the sides.
fixer
not rated yet May 07, 2011
Lizard wars 3, Attack of the clones...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) May 07, 2011

"Whiptail" describes the genus. This is indeed a new species.


Any species that can even remotely procreate with another species is an incomplete divergence, they have not completely become separate species.
Lions and tigers can mate?
KBK
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011
"not exactly earth shaking science when you consider a dog that tries to mate with a human leg."

Dogs do this as a social hierarchy pack position issue.

They don't do it due to being horny. They do it to try and maintain, create, or get themselves to a higher level in the pack order.

"It's a wild pack animal of the canine order" - behavioral consideration.

Dogs seem more domesticated than they are, when you discover this. They are not really all that domesticated. They are living in their natural pack order situations as that is normal for them. Except they've done it with humans, so they SEEM domesticated to OUR human views and social views/thinking (a hard wired/learned conceptual consideration[s]-- a deep set of our solved problem ideals/forms we bring forth when analyzing things). Not so!

Just like your given cat (if not overfed and unnaturally fat), who is inches away from being a totally wild animal.
ArkavianX
not rated yet May 07, 2011

Any species that can even remotely procreate with another species is an incomplete divergence, they have not completely become separate species.
Lions and tigers can mate?


They can, but the offspring usually weird, huge and/or sterile; mostly its a math & time thing, you have a species that can procreate with another, it isn't entirely separate
IE:

1. Species count = 2 if and only if, no compatibility results between matings or any interaction to yield offspring.

2. Species count < 2 but > 1 if and only if compatibility results in offspring
A. Two species that mate and result in degenerate offspring are closer to 2 distinct species, but NOT 2.
B. Two species that mate and result in productive, fertile offspring, are closer to 1 distinct species, but NOT 1, as in genetic quirks, such as parthenogenesis possible instability etc.

3. Any two species compatibility that results in completely healthy normal offspring are same, only 1 species.
CSharpner
3.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2011
But should the tea party types ever hear of it we should expect to hear about money wasted creating lesbian lizards that don't need male lizards to reproduce!

Why put words in other people's mouths and try to make this political? I'm a tea partier and I fully support this and plenty of other types of scientific research. My peers and I (from all political slants) are here because we all share a common interest in science and those of us mature enough try to prevent splitting ourselves on politics unnecessarily. This is a place where we can come together on common interests in spite of any other differences we may have, just like any other forum on any other topic.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) May 07, 2011
They can, but the offspring usually weird, huge and/or sterile; mostly its a math & time thing, you have a species that can procreate with another, it isn't entirely separate
I'm thinking 'separate' is not exactly a scientific term and youre just making up your whole word math thing. Unless you got a source?
MediocreSmoke
not rated yet May 07, 2011

"Whiptail" describes the genus. This is indeed a new species.


Any species that can even remotely procreate with another species is an incomplete divergence, they have not completely become separate species.


So if any species that can procreate with another species isn't its own species, what are horses and donkeys and lions and tigers? All of those species can have hybrid offspring, maybe you should have paid more attention in school. Or maybe become friendly with wikipedia.
crackerhead
not rated yet May 07, 2011
WOW! what good are they? if they were bigger we could have an endless supply of leather (bags & shoes). If turned loose in nature not only would they survive BUT, they would cause the balance of nature to become unbalanced. What niche would they fill? Maybe eating Honey Bees would be their food source ?
sherriffwoody
not rated yet May 08, 2011
So... excuse my ignorance in this area
Do they... you know? Fcku themselves??
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) May 08, 2011
Have we tried a human/lizard yet?


Donald Trump.
You could be closer to the truth than you might think...
http://www.abovet...2736/pg1

8-O
technicalengeneering
not rated yet May 08, 2011
I must note that I find the new abstract near the end of the article most helpful please continue doing this.
jmcanoy1860
not rated yet May 10, 2011
Oh great, so scientists are spending our tax dollars creating lesbian lizards. (just kidding).

I think this is very cool.

But should the tea party types ever hear of it we should expect to hear about money wasted creating lesbian lizards that don't need male lizards to reproduce!


I, for one, think that there are great human applications.

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