There is, perhaps, nothing terribly shocking about a female snake, placed in an enclosure with four male snakes, giving birth to two litters of baby snakes.
But what if those babies carry only their mother's genetic material?
Parthenogenesis—breeding without the, you know, breeding—has been documented in only a small handful of vertebrate species, but it does happen. However, usually, it takes the complete absence of males to get the vertebrate ladies going all virgin birthy. These baby boa constrictors, on the other hand, had plenty of potential fathers. But genetic tests have shown that none of the available male snakes is the dad. In addition, the babies are all female. All carry a rare caramel coloration. And all have a very weird mix of sex chromosomes.
In place of X and Y, snakes and many other reptiles have Z and W chromosomes. In all snakes, ZZ produces males and ZW produces females.
Bizarrely, all the snakes in these litters were WW.
This was further proof that the snakes inherited all their genetic material from their mother, as only females carry the W chromosome. "Essentially they are half clones of their mother," says Dr Booth. That is because the baby snakes have inherited two copies of one half of their mother's chromosomes, including one W chromosome.
You know the drill—I, for one, welcome our new female snake-Jesus overlords.
Biology Letters: Evidence for viable, non-clonal but fatherless Boa constrictors (And you can read the full text of the article for free! Also rare!)
BBC: Snake gives 'virgin birth' to extraordinary babies
Via Peter Kobel
Image: Wikipedia user DestructiveEyes, via CC
James Delingpole is an invective-hurling anti-climate science columnist who has candidly admitted that he doesn’t bother to read scientific papers, calling himself a “an interpreter of interpretations.”
Kratom (previously) is a widely used herb that has been very effective in treating opioid withdrawal and other chronic, hard-to-treat conditions — it also became very controversial this year because the DEA decided, without evidence, to class it as a dangerous drug, and then changed its mind (unprecedented!) after a mass-scale petition that included interventions […]
In a curious study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles showed that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) — altering brain activity by zapping specific regions with magnetic pulses — can apparently increase people’s libido, at least briefly. Neuroscientist Nicole Prause and her colleagues targeted the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (at the left temple), a […]
The Pocket Tripod PRO had massive Kickstarter success in 2013, raising almost $85,000 in a single month. But this isn’t just another case of pre-release product hype. This ingenious little device folds out from a credit-card-shaped plastic slab into a sturdy stand with a surprisingly wide range of motion. In portrait orientation, your phone slides […]
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]