Mother never even exposed to males; breakthrough raises scientists’ hopes
MANCHESTER, England - A British zoo announced Wednesday the virgin birth of five Komodo dragons, giving scientists new hope for the captive breeding of the endangered species.
In an evolutionary twist, the newborns’ eight-year-old mother Flora shocked staff at Chester Zoo in northern England when she became pregnant without ever having a male partner or even being exposed to the opposite sex.
“Flora is oblivious to the excitement she has caused but we are delighted to say she is now a mum and dad,” said a delighted Kevin Buley, the zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.
Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora’s virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.
The evolutionary breakthrough could have far-reaching consequences for endangered species.
Captive breeding could ensure the survival of the world’s largest lizards, with fewer than 4,000 Komodos left in the wild.