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'Virgin birth': A captive anaconda became pregnant by herself and gave birth to two babies

Posted by George H. Wessel VII at 5/25/2019 4:35:54 PM

A female anaconda living in an all-female exhibit gave birth to two babies without sexually reproducing with a male snake, a Massachusetts aquarium recently announced. 

The 10-foot-long, 30 pound mother — named Anna — gave birth to two babies that appear to be genetically identical to their mother, the New England Aquarium said, citing DNA testing. Anna has never been exposed to an adult male snake, the aquarium said.

"DNA testing has confirmed that the 2-foot-long, green anaconda youngsters are the product of nonsexual reproduction," a release from the Boston aquarium said Thursday. "The extremely rare reproductive strategy is called parthenogenesis, which translated from its Greek word origins means virgin birth."

Anna also gave birth to a number of stillborn babies, which is common when parthenogenesis does rarely occur among creatures that are not insects or plants, the aquarium said in a release. Three snakes were initially born alive, but one died soon after birth.

While the births were discovered in January, it took extensive investigation to confirm the snakes had been born via nonsexual reproduction. 

The baby snakes are not yet being exhibited but are getting daily human interaction, the aquarium says. Although they are likely genetically identical, they have distinct personalties, with one being more "laid back" and the other being "more apt to explore and check out its surroundings by sniffing out items with its tongue," the aquarium reports.

Similar cases of nonsexual reproduction have been documented in lizards, sharks, birds and snakes, the aquarium says. In 2014, a United Kingdom zoo reported parthenogenesis in a green anaconda.

Not all cases of parthenogenesis result in exact genetic clones of the mother.

Parthenogenesis can also occur in the wild, the aquarium reports. However, reproducing in this manner is genetically "vulnerable," aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse told The Washington Post.

“It’s among that tagline, life will find a way. It’s a completely unique and amazing reproductive strategy, but it has a low viability compared to sexual reproduction.”



 Comments: View Oldest First  

Rachel Gratis,
Posted At: 5/26/2019 10:28:18 AM  

So cool!

Posted At: 5/27/2019 8:56:44 PM  

Tiny clones. Hope they do well.

Posted At: 11/6/2019 12:40:04 PM  

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