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5 Komodo Dragons Hatch at British Zoo

5 Komodo Dragons Hatch at British Zoo

5 Komodo Dragons Hatch at British Zoo
January 24, 2007

Five immaculately conceived Komodo dragons hatched at the Chester Zoo in northern England. Scientists say the birth could have conservation implications for the endangered species of reptile.

Komodo dragon in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett Butler.

Flora, a the eight year old mother, surprised zoo workers when she became pregnant despite having never been in the presence of a male dragon. The asexual reproduction known as parthenogenesis where eggs become embryos without male fertilization, 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 last year. Both cases were described in the journal Nature in December.

Genetic testing confirmed the lack of a father, but the offspring were not exact clones of their mother, according to a statement from the zoo.

Scientists say 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. 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.

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