Parthenogenesis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parthogenesis

Mains level : Parthogenesis

  • 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 parthenogenesis.
  • 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.

Parthenogenesis

  • 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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