Parthenogenesis

In an article by howstuffworks.com, 10 of the coolest scientific discoveries from 2012 are examined. Although slightly outdated (as it’s already April), some of these things are pretty cool. From a turtle that pees through its mouth/gills, to a dinosaur that was only about 2 feet long, to a non-stick substance that can coat the inside of condiment bottles to help them slide out easier. But the coolest one to me was the specific page about a snake (or two snakes, rather), the cottonmouth and copperhead snakes, or more particularly, the female snakes. Or, even more particularly, the virgin female snakes. These snakes have been blessed (or cursed, depending on how the women out there look at it) with a specific trait and phenomenon called parthenogenesis. What parthenogenesis allows them to do is procreate, or reproduce, without the introduction of a male or sperm to their egg. What happens is, for whatever reason, whether there are no males in the region or available to the women, or they are not seen as suitable to the males that are present, or some happenstance that is unknown to scientists so far, a part of the female creates a cell that latches itself onto the egg like how a sperm would normally do. Thus, the process of pregnancy is started with the egg, the female part, and a cell also created by the female. This in turn means that the offspring will be, rather than the typically perceived “half-mom, half-dad” genus, would actually be part individual, and part clone. This fascinating phenomenon blows me away as to how certain animals or species can adapt to things in the environment (or lack of those certain things) in order to keep their species alive. This process has also been viewed in other snakes, Komodo dragons, certain birds or certain sharks, as all species have been known (for whatever reason) to be virgins. It amazes me how things like this happen in nature all the time. It also amazes me that, from the phenomenon we know about, there are probably hundreds or thousands of instances we don’t know about. Things happen in nature all the time that require adaptation by species in order to survive, whether it’s changes in diet or migration or even parthenogenesis. And whether or not we will ever know these circumstances is beyond me, and part of me feels like I wouldn’t want to know everything. Sometimes the mystery about nature makes it that much more fascinating.

 

http://www.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/10-2012-discoveries.htm#page=5