Virgin births may be common among snakes

January 4, 2016

A new review provides intriguing insights on parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, in snakes.

Interestingly, facultative parthenogenesis, or in an otherwise sexually reproducing species, appears to be quite common among and may represent a potentially important feature of . On the other hand, obligate parthogenesis—when organisms exclusively reproduce through asexual means—is extremely rare in snakes.

While researchers' understanding of these reproductive phenomena is in its infancy, the review provides the necessary first steps for investigating the origin and evolution of parthenogenesis in snakes.

"Once considered a evolutionary novelty, facultative parthenogenesis has now been documented in an increasing number of , ranging from the hammerhead shark to domestic turkeys, komodo dragons to snakes; however it is this last group that offers us the greatest insight into this unusual reproductive trait," said Dr. Warren Booth, co-author of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society article. "Having recently been documented in natural populations and across a variety of lineages within the snake phylogeny, ranging from the boas and pythons through to the water snakes and pitvipers, we revisit previous studies identifying commonalities and variations that offer new insight into this remarkable trait within snakes. Based on our findings we propose splitting facultative parthenogenesis within snakes into two forms, and thus identify snakes as ideal model species to study the evolution of vertebrate ."

Explore further: Captive snake with no male companion gives birth—again

More information: Warren Booth et al. The emerging phylogenetic pattern of parthenogenesis in snakes, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2015). DOI: 10.1111/bij.12744

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Ants need work-life balance, research suggests

January 16, 2017

As humans, we constantly strive for a good work-life balance. New findings by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology suggest that ants, long perceived as the workaholics of the insect world, do the same.

New tools will drive greater understanding of wheat genes

January 16, 2017

Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a much-needed genetic resource that will greatly accelerate the study of gene functions in wheat. The resource, a collection of wheat seeds with more than 10 million ...

How China is poised for marine fisheries reform

January 16, 2017

As global fish stocks continue sinking to alarmingly low levels, a joint study by marine fisheries experts from within and outside of China concluded that the country's most recent fisheries conservation plan can achieve ...

SMiLE-seq: A new technique speeds up genetics

January 16, 2017

Scientists at EPFL have developed a technique that can be a game-changer for genetics by making the characterization of DNA-binding proteins much faster, more accurate, and efficient.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.