At a zoo located in Costa Rica, researchers have discovered the first instance of a female crocodile impregnating herself.
The woman gave birth to a developing embryo that shared 99.9% of its genetic makeup with her own.
Virgin birth, also known as parthenogenesis, has been observed in certain types of animals such as birds, fish, and reptiles. However, this phenomenon has never been documented before in crocodiles.
According to the researchers, it is possible that the characteristic of self-reproduction was passed down from a previous evolutionary predecessor, suggesting that dinosaurs could have possessed this ability as well.
An American crocodile, who was 18 years old, laid an egg in Parque Reptilania in January 2018. The egg contained a developed fetus but unfortunately, it was stillborn and therefore did not hatch.
A crocodile that laid an egg was acquired at the age of two and was raised in isolation from other crocodiles for its entire life. Consequently, the scientific team at the park reached out to a US team from Virginia Polytechnic that specialized in parthenogenesis, also known as virgin births.
After a thorough examination of the unborn child, it was determined that it shared over 99.9% of its genetic makeup with the mother, providing evidence that it was not fathered by a male.
According to a study published in the journal Biology Letters of the Royal Society, researchers believe that parthenogenesis, or virgin births, may occur more frequently in crocodiles. These occurrences may have gone unnoticed in the past due to the lack of attention paid to them.
According to the research paper, it is normal for captive reptiles to produce clutches of eggs when they are isolated from their mates for a long time. Usually, these eggs are considered to be non-viable and thrown away. However, the scientists suggest that these eggs should be examined to determine if they have the potential to survive when males are not present.
In addition, it is possible for virgin births to take place even when there are potential partners around, but it may go unnoticed if the reproduction happens in female organisms that live with males.
The reason for parthenogenesis in various species is not yet fully understood, but it is becoming more frequently observed in scientific research, likely due to increased attention on the topic. A hypothesis suggests that parthenogenesis may occur in species that have the ability to reproduce asexually when their population decreases and they are at risk of becoming extinct.
According to the scientists, the newly discovered evidence provides interesting ideas about the reproductive abilities of extinct creatures related to crocodiles, particularly dinosaurs.
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