A crocodile at a zoo in Costa Rica managed to make herself pregnant, scientists have discovered.
When she laid her eggs in 2018, she had been living alone for 16 years. But one egg of the batch still contained a fully-formed fetus. The fetus was stillborn, but scientists confirmed in a new paper that it was 99.9% genetically identical to the mother crocodile, which confirms it had no father.
The phenomenon is known as parthenogenesis or "virgin birth," and had previously been discovered in other species like birds – but had never been observed in crocodiles before.
Scientists think that it might be a trait that has been passed down by crocodiles' evolutionary ancestors, so it's possible dinosaurs were also capable of parthenogenesis.
There may also be more virgin births than is currently known. Scientists believe many may just go unnoticed. In the paper, they said, “Given that (virgin births) can occur in the presence of potential mates, instances of this may be missed when reproduction occurs in females co-habited with males.”
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