A female Komodo dragon named Charlie gave birth to three hatchlings, Onyx, Jasper and Flint at the Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee in August 2019. The zoo has now confirmed the birth was as result of successful self-fertilisation, according to The Independent. Zoo staff were initially unsure, as a male called Kadal was put with Charlie and DNA tests had to be done to confirm if he was the father.
As it turns out, Charlie had no need for Kadal’s intervention and reproduced through parthenogenesis, meaning ‘the mother’s half-set of chromosomes doubles up to generate the full complement,’ reports scientific journal Scientific American. ‘Hence, the offspring derives all its genes from the mother, but they are not a duplicate of her genome. Only 0.1 percent of all vertebrate are able to reproduce asexually.’
The zoo took to Facebook to announce Charlie’s autonomy in true 21st century-fashion.
‘At the time, it was unknown if they were a product of breeding with our male, Kadal, or if parthenogenesis had occurred. DNA results show that the hatchlings were, in fact, reproduced through parthenogenesis!’
Although this form of reproduction is rare, it is not hard to believe it could occur in Komodo dragons as they are naturally aggressive and often live isolated in the wild.
The Komodo dragon hatchlings are available for public viewing at the zoo.