By mating a female lizard that has three sets of chromosomes with a male that has just the typical two, researchers have created a new species.

Several species of all-female whiptail lizard roam the deserts of New Mexico. They typically reproduce through an asexual process called parthenogenesis. But matings between all-female species and males of other species have, in the past, created 'triploid' hybrids — which have three sets of chromosomes — that then produced sterile offspring. Peter Baumann and his team at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri, mated one of these triploid lizards (Aspidoscelis exsanguis; pictured right) with a male A. inornata lizard (left) to create a new species of whiptail (centre) that has four sets of chromosomes.

The tetraploid lizards went on to produce healthy, genetically identical daughters asexually. Surprisingly, the daughters could also reproduce in this way. The results may help to explain how species with more than two sets of chromosomes evolve.

Credit: W. B. NEAVES

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA doi:10.1073/pnas.1102811108 (2011)