Consecutive Virgin Births in the New World Boid Snake, The Colombian Rainbow Boa, Epicrates maurus

  • publication
  • 24-08-2011

Booth W., Burghardt G., Vargo, E., Schal C., Tzika A.C., Schuett G.. Journal of Heredity, 102(6):759-763

Until recently, facultative automictic parthenogenesis within the squamate reptiles exhibiting ZZ:ZW genetic sex determination has resulted in single reproductive events producing male (ZZ) or female (ZW) offspring. With the recent discovery of viable parthenogenetically produced female (WW) Boa constrictors, the existence of further parthenogenetic events resulting in WW females was questioned. Here, we provide genetic evidence for consecutive virgin births by a female Colombian rainbow boa (Epicrates maurus), resulting in the production of WW females likely through terminal fusion automixis. Samples were screened at 22 microsatellite loci with 12 amplifying unambiguous products. Of these, maternal heterozygosity was observed in 4, with the offspring differentially homozygous at each locus. This study documents the first record of parthenogenesis within the genus Epicrates, a second within the serpent lineage Boidae, and the third genetically confirmed case of consecutive virgin births of viable offspring within any vertebrate lineage. Unlike the recent record in Boa constrictors, the female described here was isolated from conspecifics from birth, demonstrating that males are not required to stimulate parthenogenetic reproduction in this species and possibly other Boas.

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