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Vertebrate Characteristics

Describes the characteristics and classification of animals with a backbone.

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Males Need Not Apply
Teacher Contributed

Males Need Not Apply

Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)

It Doesn't Always Take Two

I am sure you are familiar with males and females, and how you need both to make a baby. But did you know that isn't always the case? Well, it's not. There is a process called parthenogenesis which scientists are finding is far more widespread than most of them thought.

Read a full summary of Professor Booth and his team's findings at this link.

As you know now, parthenogenesis is not found just in snakes. Watch this video and find out more:

Read more about parthenogenesis in Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) and why captive breeders are concerned. http://fire.biol.wwu.edu/trent/trent/komododragon.pdf

Extension Investigation

  1. Considering what is essential for an animal's survival:
    1. How do conditions in the wild differ from conditions in captivity?
    2. Why might these conditions make scientists think that parthenogenesis was an artifact of captivity?
    3. Why is it significant that virgin births are seen in the wild and not just captivity?
  2. What percentage of wild births of copperheads Agkistrodon contortrix does Professor Booth estimate are from parthenogenesis? Do you think this percentage is significant? Why or why not?
  3. How does the way sex chromosomes determine sex (male or female) differ in snakes from humans?
  4. What was so unusual about the babies of the captive boa that gave birth through parthenogenesis? How do you think this could affect the survival of the species?
  5. Why is parthenogenesis in Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) a concern in captive breeding programs? Do you think this concern may be unfounded given what was documented with the captive boa? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning as fully as you can.


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