Brief Communications

Nature 444, 1021-1022 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/4441021a; Received 4 October 2006; Accepted 16 November 2006; Published online 21 December 2006

Parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons

Phillip C. Watts1, Kevin R. Buley2, Stephanie Sanderson2, Wayne Boardman3, Claudio Ciofi4 & Richard Gibson3

Parthenogenesis, the production of offspring without fertilization by a male, is rare in vertebrate species, which usually reproduce after fusion of male and female gametes. Here we use genetic fingerprinting to identify parthenogenetic offspring produced by two female Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) that had been kept at separate institutions and isolated from males; one of these females subsequently produced additional offspring sexually. This reproductive plasticity indicates that female Komodo dragons may switch between asexual and sexual reproduction, depending on the availability of a mate — a finding that has implications for the breeding of this threatened species in captivity. Most zoos keep only females, with males being moved between zoos for mating, but perhaps they should be kept together to avoid triggering parthenogenesis and thereby decreasing genetic diversity.

  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZB, UK
  2. North of England Zoological Society, Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester CH2 1LH, UK
  3. Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK
  4. Department of Animal Biology and Genetics, University of Florence, 50125 Florence, Italy

Correspondence to: Phillip C. Watts1 Email:

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