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Why in News?

  • About a week ago, the New England Aquarium in the US announced that a “virgin”
    anaconda had given birth during the winter.
  • This is Immaculate Conception in Catholicism; in scientific terminology, it is
  • This is only the second known case of parthenogenesis in green anacondas. It is not
    unknown in snakes, but undocumented enough to make it to scientific journals.


  • The term parthenogenesis is a amalgam of the Greek words parthenos meaning virgin and
    genesis meaning origin.
  • About 2,000 species are known to reproduce through parthenogenesis, which is one of the
    known means of asexual reproduction.
  • It is a reproductive strategy that involves development of a female (rarely a male) gamete
    (sex cell) without fertililisation.
  • It occurs commonly among lower plants and invertebrate animals (particularly rotifers,
    aphids, ants, wasps and bees) and rarely among higher vertebrates”.
  • A gamete is the egg in females and the sperm in males. In animals, parthenogenesis means
    development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell.
  • Many species that reproduce through parthenogenesis do not reproduce sexually. Others
    switch between the two modes taking cues from the environment.

How are the babies?

  • Babies born through parthenogenesis are clones of the mother, as has now been confirmed
    by the aquarium through DNA tests.
  • Parthenogenetic offspring tend to be clones of the parent because there has been no
    exchange and rearrangement of genetic information with another individual as happens in
    case of a sexual reproductive process.
  • In some species, offspring born by parthenogenesis from a mother can also be male but it
    lacks one X chromosome.
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