Facultative parthenogenesis

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Facultative parthenogenesis

Postby Mario Schweiger » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:31 pm

In two american pitvipers, Agkistrodon contortrix (Copperhead) and A. piscivorus (Cottonmouth) facultative parthenogenesis occurs in the wild too!

Facultative parthenogenesis (FP)—asexual reproduction by bisexual species—has been documented in a variety of multi-cellular organisms but only recently in snakes, varanid lizards, birds and sharks. Unlike the approximately 80 taxa of unisexual reptiles, amphibians and fishes that exist in nature, FP has yet to be documented in the wild. Based on captive documentation, it appears that FP is widespread in squamate reptiles (snakes, lizards and amphisbaenians), and its occurrence in nature seems inevitable, yet the task of detecting FP inwild individuals has been deemed formidable. Here we show, using microsatellite DNA genotyping and litter characteristics, the first cases of FP in wild-collected pregnant females and their offspring of two closely related species of North American pitviper snakes—the copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) and cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). Our findings support the view that non-hybrid origins of parthenogenesis, such as FP, are more common in squamates than previously thought. With this confirmation, FP can no longer be viewed as a rare curiosity outside the mainstream of vertebrate evolution. Future research on FP in squamate reptiles related to proximate control of induction, reproductive competence of parthenogens and population genetics modelling is warranted.

Full paper:

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Re: Facultative parthenogenesis

Postby Matthijs Hollanders » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:10 pm

Incredible. I have no idea how that would work at cell/molecular level.
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Re: Facultative parthenogenesis

Postby Daniel Kane » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:35 pm

Definitely very interesting. I'm looking forwards to reading the paper on that. Here is another example of parthenogenesis, this time from a Boa. http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9139000/9139971.stm. I imagine this phenomenon is more widespread than we realise in the reptile world.
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Re: Facultative parthenogenesis

Postby Liam Russell » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:33 pm

Daniel Kane wrote: I imagine this phenomenon is more widespread than we realise in the reptile world.

Certainly - it's the reason Jurassic Park went wrong... :lol:
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