Researchers have recently provided intriguing insights on parthenogenesis or virgin birth in snakes.
Facultative parthenogenesis or asexual reproduction in an otherwise sexually reproducing species, appears to be quite common among snakes and may represent a potentially important feature of vertebrate evolution.
On the other hand, obligate parthogenesis when organisms exclusively reproduce through asexual means is extremely rare in snakes.
Researchers claim that this review provides the necessary first steps for investigating the origin and evolution of parthenogenesis in snakes.
Co-author Dr. Warren Booth said that once considered a evolutionary novelty, facultative parthenogenesis has now been documented in an increasing number of vertebrate species, ranging from the hammerhead shark to domestic turkeys, komodo dragons to snakes; however it is this last group that offers us the greatest insight into this unusual reproductive trait.
He added that having recently been documented in natural populations and across a variety of lineages within the snake phylogeny, ranging from the boas and pythons through to the water snakes and pitvipers.
Booth further said that they revisited previous studies to identify commonalities and variations that offer new insight into this remarkable trait within snakes.
Based on their findings researchers proposed splitting facultative parthenogenesis within snakes into two forms and thus identify snakes as ideal model species to study the evolution of vertebrate parthenogenesis.
The research is published in the journal Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.