Should males and females be kept together to avoid triggering virgin birth in these endangered reptiles?
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.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Ciofi, C. & De Boer, M. Herpetol. J. 14, 99–107 (2004).
Ciofi, C. & Bruford, M. W. Mol. Ecol. 7, 134–136 (1998).
White, M. J. D. Animal Cytology and Evolution (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1973).
Avise, J. C., Quattro, J. M. & Vrijenhoek, R. C. in Evolutionary Biology (eds Hecht, M. K., Wallace, B. & MacIntyre, R. J.) 225–246 (Plenum, New York, 1992).
Groot, T. V. M., Bruins, E. & Breeuwer, J. A. Heredity 90, 130–135 (2003).
Lenk, P., Eidenmueller, B., Staudter, H., Wicker, R. & Wink, M. Amphibia-Reptilia 26, 507–514 (2005).
Saccheri, I. J. et al. Nature 392, 491–494 (1998).
Spielman, D., Brook, B. W. & Frankham, R. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 15261–15264 (2004).
Sherratt, T. N. & Beatty, C. D. Nature 435, 1039–1040 (2005).
Halverson, J. & Spelman, L. H. in Biology and Conservation of Komodo Dragons (eds Murphy, J. B., Ciofi, C., de La Panouse, C. & Walsh, T.) 165–177 (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 2002).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This file presents full details of (1) the movements and reproductive histories of the two female Komodo dragons (Flora and Sungai) that produced parthenogenetic offspring, (2) the methods used for genotyping and (3) the statistical analyses used to exclude sexual reproduction.
This table provides the raw genotype data of all Komodo dragons.
About this article
Cite this article
Watts, P., Buley, K., Sanderson, S. et al. Parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons. Nature 444, 1021–1022 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/4441021a
Scientific Reports (2021)
Scientific Reports (2020)
Scientific Reports (2018)
Conservation Genetics (2018)