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Regina Bailey

Boa Constrictor Reproduces Without Sex

By November 3, 2010

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A boa constrictor has exhibited both asexual and sexual reproduction. Her sexually produced snake (left) is shown beside one of the asexually produced females (right). Credit: Sharon Moore

For the first time, parthenogenesis has been observed in boa constrictors. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which an egg develops into an individual without being fertilized. The female boa constrictor studied by North Carolina State University researchers has had babies through both asexual and sexual reproduction. The baby boas that were produced asexually however were all female and bore the same color mutation as their mom. Their sex chromosome makeup was also different from the sexually produced snakes. The asexually produced babies had WW chromosomes while the other snakes either had ZZ chromosomes (male) or ZW chromosomes (female).

The researchers don't believe that this type of rare birth is due to changes in the environment. According to researcher Dr. Warren Booth, "Reproducing both ways could be an evolutionary 'get-out-of-jail-free card' for snakes. If suitable males are absent, why waste those expensive eggs when you have the potential to put out some half-clones of yourself? Then, when a suitable mate is available, revert back to sexual reproduction." The female boa that produced her young asexually did so in spite of the fact that there were plenty of male suitors available.

Learn more about this study:

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