Female Anaconda At Safari Park Has "Virgin Birth"

Silvain de Munck, via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Staff at West Midlands Safari Park weren’t expecting to have to play babysitter to their resident anacondas any time soon - given the fact that both of their snakes were female. But in a bizarre twist, one of them has given birth to three babies without a daddy.

This unusual form of reproduction is known as parthenogenesis, which literally means “virgin birth” in Greek. It’s a type of asexual reproduction in which the embryos develop without fertilization. Parthenogenesis is common among lower plants and invertebrates but has also been observed in Komodo dragons, sharks and some birds.  Researchers aren’t sure what causes these births, but it seems to be occurring in wild snakes and thus is not merely a product of captivity.

“Not everything is known, that is the beauty of science,” said the park’s curator of reptiles Mark O’Shea. “We are still discovering things that surprise and amaze us.”

[Via BBC News]

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