A female Komodo dragon named Charlie who lives at the Chattanooga Zoo had three hatchlings without ever having mated. Charlie's hatchlings were born last year
but the zoo only recently determined via DNA testing that a male named Kadal who shared her habitat wasn't the father. Indeed, there was no father. Komodo dragons are capable of parthenogenesis, asexual reproduction that's very rare in vertebrates. From CNN
Komodo dragons have evolved to reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically because they mainly live isolated in the wild and become violent when approached, according to the zoo.
Parthenogenesis happens when another egg, rather than sperm, fertilizes an egg, according to Scientific American. The biological process of making an egg cell, called oogenesis, typically produces a polar body, which contains a duplicate copy of egg DNA.
"Normally, this polar body shrivels up and disappears. In the case of the Komodos, though, polar bodies evidently acted as sperm and turned ova into embryos," Scientific American said in 2006 when the first cases of parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons were reported.
image: Chattanooga Zoo press release
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Back in August 2019, a female komodo dragon named Charlie gave birth to three little dragons at the Chattanooga Zoo. The zookeepers had previously tried to hook her up with a sweet dragon fella named Kadal, but the two never really seemed to hit it off — not that the staff could observe, anyway. And now that they've tested the DNA of young Onyx, Jasper, and Flint, it's finally confirmed: Charlie and Kadal did not hit it off at all, so Charlie took it upon herself to bring the kids into the world. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
The DNA results showed the babies were the result of parthenogenesis, which is a type of reproduction where the female produces offspring without male fertilization. […] Female Komodo dragons carry WZ sex chromosomes, while males carry the ZZ type. When parthenogenesis happens, the mother can only create WW or ZZ eggs. Since eggs with the sex chromosomes of WW aren't viable, only ZZ eggs are left to produce all male hatchlings. Parthenogenesis is considered very rare, with the first case of a successful parthenogenesis reproduction in Komodo dragons recorded in 2006.
I was personally fascinated to learn that there are so many different categorizations of asexual reproduction, and that it can indeed occur spontaneously in vertebrates without any fertilization. In 2007, there was apparently a bit of a scandal involving a lab-grown human embryo that was allegedly cloned, but turned it to be a productive parthenogenesis. There are also living human beings with some unique chimeric complications in which they were both fertilized by a male, but also underwent some kind of parthenogenesis at the same time, resulting in a male offspring with Y-chromosomes in his skin, but not in his blood. Read the rest
A fellow named Brett, aka "Slab," was having a beer with his buddies at the the Amble Inn in Corindi Beach, New South Wales, Australia, when he noticed a gecko in his mug. The gecko wasn't moving so Slab sprang into action, as seen in the video above.
Yes, geckos do sometimes play dead as a defense mechanism. But either way, good on ya, Slab!
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His name is Tad Cooper, apparently, filmed here by Joseph Pannullo. I made a perfectly-looping GIF of the funky reptile for you:
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The South Carolina Emergency Management Division warned eclipse watchers to be on the lookout for lizard men during the astronomical event.
"Obviously this was done very tongue-in-cheek," the middle-aged co-anchor solemnly explained to his young female colleague, who was until that point having fun with the segment.
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George Toubbeh of Fountain Valley, California is suing Heineken and grocer The Kroger Co. after allegedly finding two dead geckos in his 24-ounce beer can back in 2015. Apparently they weren't supposed to be in there. From the Los Angeles Times:
According to the suit, Toubbeh noticed that the beer had a foul taste and he immediately began having abdominal pain and started vomiting. His daughter examined the can of beer and found two juvenile leopard geckos inside, the suit states. Geckos are a type of lizard.
“When discovered, the geckos had not been decomposed at all and were likely alive when the beer was poured and sealed into the cans in the bottling and/or canning facility,” the lawsuit states.
Heineken USA, a subsidiary of the Dutch brewing company, said in a statement that it “holds the safety and integrity of the products we import to the highest standards. We have investigated this isolated claim, and based on a number of factors, we confidently believe there is no merit to this claim.”
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The dongs of the deep have nothing on the hearty Mexican mole lizard, aka dongs of the desert. Read the rest
Working in an Australian restaurant has some region-specific duties, like dragging giant goannas off the patio dining area. Samia Lila was up to the task, earning the name Goanna Girl thanks to the viral video. Read the rest
National Geograph explores the magic and mystery. Read the rest
Now someone is going to tell me that blowing bubbles near a chameleon is even worse than tickling a slow loris. Read the rest
I love it when nature inspires technology. A group of researchers has developed a glove that will allow humans to stick to and scale walls. This bit of amazingness is being modeled on the feet of geckos.
Unlike tree frogs, whose sticky toe pads give these amphibians the ability to cling to surfaces, gecko toes instead use friction created by microscopic hair-like structures called setae that hold up the animal's body weight.
This adaptation has been studied before, but so far physics and gravity have prevented any practical application for human use. We're simply too large and heavy. That has all changed now based on the work of Michael Elliot Hawks of Stanford University, who has developed a synthetic nano-fiber "setae" that can hold the weight of a human.
If and when these become available to the public, I'm definitely adding them to my wish list! Read the rest
Michael Hearst launched his Songs For Unusual Creatures series on PBS Digital with an episode about the Jesus Christ Lizard. To accompany the story of this unusual creature, Michael wrote a tune for toy piano virtuoso Margaret Leng Tan! Michael says upcoming episodes will feature giant anteaters, magnapinna squids, tardigrades, glass frogs and sea pigs. For more of Michael's quirky brand of animal education, check out his book Unusual Creatures!
Michael Hearst: Ode To Odd Instruments
Kronos Quartet and the secret life of lemurs Read the rest
A shopper fled from an Asda supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, after being confronted by a "dragon" in the toilet—a creature that turned out to be a harmless monitor lizard. The lizard was rescued by animal welfare officers, who have named it Lulu. [The Scottish Sun] Read the rest
A new study suggests that the "miracle" of re-growing a lost tail is less awesome than it might first appear. Sure, growing a new tail is cool and all. But the new tails have completely different anatomy — a tube of cartilage in place of vertebra, for instance — and are likely less flexible than the original model. (Via Brian Switek) Read the rest