Virgin dragon to give birth this Christmas
December 20, 2006
A virgin Komodo dragon will give birth to offspring this Christmas (or thereabouts) at the Chester Zoo in Britain according to researchers.
Komodo dragon in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett Butler
Flora, a female Komodo dragon, will reproduce asexually in a process called parthenogenesis, where eggs become embryos without male fertilization. The process is known to occur in about 70 reptile species but hadn’t been observed in Komodo dragons — the world’s largest lizard species — until this year. Another dragon, Sungai, had virginal conception earlier this year. Both cases are described in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.
The ability to conceive without a mate has important conservation implications for a species that is today limited to a few remote islands in Indonesia. Scientists say only about 4,000 dragons remain in the wild, putting the species at risk in a region where natural disasters like tsunami or a disease outbreak could easily cause extinction.