Original Article

Heredity (2003) 90, 130–135. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800210

Molecular genetic evidence for parthenogenesis in the Burmese python, Python molurus bivittatus

T V M Groot1, E Bruins2 and J A J Breeuwer1

  1. 1Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94062, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Artis Zoo, Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, 1018 CZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Correspondence: TVM Groot, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94062, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: tvmgroot@science.uva.nl

Received 5 June 2002; Accepted 25 October 2002.

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Abstract

Parthenogenesis among reptiles is rare. Only a few species have the ability to reproduce asexually. Most of these are obligate parthenogenetic species that consist (almost) entirely of females, which can reproduce solely through parthenogenesis. Rarer are sexual species that only sporadically reproduce through parthenogenesis. A female Python molurus bivittatus (Reptilia, Boidae) from the Artis Zoo, Amsterdam, produced eggs in five consecutive years that contained embryos while she was isolated from males. These eggs might be fertilized with stored sperm, or might be the product of parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis has not been shown for the Boidae family before. We performed parentship analyses on the snake and seven of her embryos using microsatellites and AFLP. Four microsatellite loci developed for this species combined with three loci developed previously for different snake species revealed too little variation to discriminate between sperm retention and parthenogenesis. With AFLP we were able to confirm that the Artis Zoo female reproduced parthenogenetically. Because the offspring are genetically identical to their mother, whereas in previous studies on sporadic parthenogenesis in snakes a loss of genetic information was reported, we conclude that the meiotic pathways that produce the diploid egg cells are different.

Keywords:

Python molurus bivittatus, parthenogenesis, microsatellites, AFLP, sperm retention, Reptilia