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Front Page - Friday, March 6, 2020

No dad? No problem

DNA testing reveals Chattanooga Zoo’s female Komodo dragon produced offspring on her own

The three Komodo dragon hatchlings born at the Chattanooga Zoo in September were reproduced through parthenogenesis. - Photograph provided

Chattanooga Zoo officials are celebrating a “monumental work of nature” involving a resident Komodo dragon.

The Chattanooga Zoo announced the birth of three Komodo dragon hatchlings in September. At that time, it was unknown if the offspring were a product of breeding between first-time mother Charlie and the zoo’s resident male, Kadal, or if parthenogenesis had occurred.

Parthenogenesis is a type of reproduction in which the female produces offspring without male fertilization.

In the wild, Komodo dragons mainly live isolated and often become violent when approached, which has allowed these animals to evolve to reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically.

Female Komodo dragons carry the sex chromosomes of WZ. with males carrying ZZ. When parthenogenesis occurs, the mother can create only WW or ZZ eggs.

Eggs with the sex chromosomes of WW are not viable, leaving only ZZ eggs to produce all male hatchlings.

Parthenogenesis is considered a rare phenomenon, with the first case of a successful parthenogenesis reproduction in Komodo dragons recorded in 2006.

DNA results show that the three Komodo dragon hatchlings born at the Chattanooga Zoo on Aug. 4, 2019, were reproduced through parthenogenesis.

The six-month-old brothers, named Onyx, Jasper and Flint, are growing rapidly and doing well, Chattanooga Zoo says in a news release.

The Chattanooga Zoo staff is excited to witness this “monumental work of nature” and be part of an important conservation program.

“As the Komodo dragon is listed as vulnerable to extinction, these hatchlings are even more special and represent a bright future for their species,” says Dardenelle Long, Chattanooga Zoo CEO and president.

Source: Chattanooga Zoo