Ian Malcolm’s biggest fear from Jurassic Park has apparently come true in a female crocodile that has been sequestered in captivity for the past 16 years. The crocodile was taken to a zoo in Costa Rica in 2002 and has remained there alone all this time, which is why zookeepers were baffled to find 14 virgin-birthed eggs back in the enclosure back in 2018.
While no of the eggs hatches, one developed into a fully-formed fetus. Researchers say the changes are evidence that evolutionary ancestors like dinosaurs were also capable of self reproduction.
The idea of self-reproduction isn’t exactly new, either. As Treehugger notes, this kind of change has been seen in sharks and other animals that are sequestered from male interaction for long periods. Some animals can reproduce without a partner, and never need a male or female to do so.
Further investigations into the fetus’s heart showed that it shared a 99. 9 percent genetic match with the DNA taken from the mother’s shed skin, confirming that the virgin-birthed crocodile eggs were indeed conceived without a father present.
Virgin birth in animals is also known as facultative parthenogenesis and has been documented in several species of fish, lizards, and birds, like the sharks I mentioned above. This is the first instance that scientists have found this characteristic in American Crocodiles. It appears that this particular behavior occurs when an animal species is in a challenging situation. Often that condition is associated with environmental stress or the lack of mates.
In the case of this crocodile, it is possible that the absence of males could have affected the way the birthing process worked. It’s fascinating to watch something so bizarre happen in a crocodile who has lived alone for a long time. The research on the discovery can be found published in the journal Biology Letters.
These eggs from crocodiles that were born virgin are not the only time evolution has surprised or baffled us. Scientists also recently discovered that marsupial evolution is much further along than we previously thought.
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