Wild female pit vipers can reproduce without a male, suggesting virgin births may take place in nature far more than before thought.
is common among invertebrates — that is, animals without backbones. It occurs rarely in vertebrates, but examples of it are increasingly being discovered. For instance, the Komodo dragon
, the world's largest living lizard, has given birth via parthenogenesis, in which an unfertilized egg develops to maturity. Such virgin births
have also been seen in sharks
at least twice; in birds such as chickens and turkeys; and in snakes such as pit vipers
and boa constrictors
Although virgin birth has been observed in vertebrates in captivity, scientists had not yet seen it happen in the wild. This raised the possibility that such asexual reproduction might just be a rare curiosity outside the mainstream of vertebrate evolution.
Did you know there are only 5000 Snow Leopards in the wild now and they are confined to Central Asia? However, the effective global population (those likely to reproduce) is less than half that number.