Researchers have found a virgin crocodile giving birth! Let's know the full story

A crocodile has given birth to a baby crocodile. What is the news, then? The female crocodile was a virgin.

Astha Pasricha
Jun 9, 2023, 22:29 IST
A virgin crocodiles gives birth!
A virgin crocodiles gives birth!

Researchers have found astonishing research in which, for the very first time, a virgin female crocodile, made herself pregnant, without a male crocodile. The fetus produced was genetically identical to the female crocodile herself. Warren Booth, an evolutionary biologist from Virginia Tech, along with his team brought forward this finding. The findings were published in a journal published by the Royal Society, called Biology Letters.

In the year 2018, 14 eggs in a female's enclosure were found in Costa Rica with the Parque Reptilandia.  Since the age of 2, the crocodile has been in complete isolation. However, it is surprising to see that yet she was able to lay a clutch of 18 eggs.

The researchers expressed, "Given the period of isolation from mates, these would normally be considered non-viable and discarded." However, the officials collected seven viable-appearing eggs and kept them inside an incubator.

 Booth also told that several signs may indicate that one of the eggs may actually be viable. The man clarified that "Viable eggs are often bright white, whereas infertile may be more yellowish." He further said that "when held up to a flashlight, viable crocodile eggs will have a distinct band, whereas non-viable will simply glow yellow."

Parthenogenesis-specializing experts in the United States were reached out by the officials of Costa Rica for consultations. The term parthenogenesis is derived from two Greek terms, "Parthenos", and "genesis", meaning "Virgin' and "Origin" respectively, as per the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Booth and Gordon Schuett (co-author) from Georgia State University had made many of their papers published on the topic. These two have had so many of their papers published on the topic that these became the "go-to people" for queries surrounding the concept.

Wondering if virgin births are rare? Well, they once were considered rare, but those who study the topic well know that there have been many such virgin birth incidents coming from a myriad of other species being documented. These species include snakes, sharks, sawfish, birds, and more. The virgin birth process is actually more common in the world of insects and plants than any other organism, wherein the female organism is able to replicate itself sans any fertilization from a male counterpart.

In the year 2021, a study indicated that virgin births are also possible in California condors. Researchers working with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance stated that genetic testing proved that two male chicks that got hatched in the years 2001 and 2009 through unfertilized eggs were related to the mother. None of them were related to a male. In the year 2019, an anaconda, that was housed with two females, delivered babies. DNA testing proved that the anaconda tiny tots were reproduced by means of parthenogenesis.

Talking about the Costa Rica crocodile, three months post the workers fetched the eggs, but none of the eggs hatched. Only one of the eggs had a completely formed but nonviable fetus. The DNA testing later proved that the fetus was actually 99.9% genetically identical to the mother crocodile.

As per researchers, virgin births could be taking place in crocodiles sans anyone noticing it. The study wrote that "these findings, therefore, suggest that eggs should be assessed for potential viability when males are absent." 

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