Thursday, May 24, 2007

Virgin Birth -- A Desperate Measure

Scientists confirmed that female sharks can fertilize their own eggs and give birth without sperm from males ; a DNA analysis was performed on a shark was born in a tank with three potential mothers, none of whom had contact with a male hammerhead for at least three years. This was the first confirmed case of shark parthenogenesis (a word derived from Greek meaning 'virgin birth').

This is not a good sign, though, scientists explained -- parthenogenesis is a last resort; it undermines genetic diversity and adaptability and represents "an evolutionary dead end that compromises the survival of the species." The complete article can be found on CNN's website.

(Editor's note: Hat tip to R. Alta Charo, who quipped "Hmm-- next it will be lawyers reproducing by parthenogenesis" -- I don't know that lawyers are in any danger of extinction, though I can think of plenty of people who wish lawyers were!)

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