Two baby green anacondas were recently born at the New England Aquarium in Boston, which would normally be a rather run-of-the-mill occurrence.
But in a twist reminiscent of Jurassic Park, the babies were born in an all-female exhibit. There were no males present to fertilize.
In the 1993 movie, the dinosaurs were somehow breeding despite measures taken by scientists to ensure they were all female. It turns out that some of the dinos changed sex spontaneously in a single-sex environment.
As local affiliate WGBH reports, the baby snakes were born in January.
New England Aquarium biologist Tori Babson, who helps take care of each animal in the facility, said it was quite the surprise to see baby snakes wriggling around in the exhibit. (Unlike most snake species, anacondas don’t lay eggs, instead giving birth to live snakes.)
“We were all quite surprised,” said Babson. “ definitely had no idea that we had a pregnant snake. equally surprised because there were no males in the exhibit. All four of the adults that are in there are all confirmed females.”
In total, there were 18 babies, all born to one adult anaconda named Anna. There is absolutely no way Anna ever came into contact with a male snake, confirmed Babson.
So what happened here?
Known as parthenogenesis, it’s the asexual reproduction from an ovum without fertilization, a relatively common process in the plant and invertebrate world. It’s only been documented among snakes, sharks, frogs, lizards and birds; this is only the second documented case involving green anaconda.
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“Anna’s life history was well-known, she had been born in the care of a certified reptile organization and had come to the aquarium as a very young animal with no exposure to adult males,” said the aquarium in a statement. “The ruling out process had eliminated any other suspects but parthenogenesis.”
Babies born this way are often more susceptible to genetic abnormalities, so of the 18 baby anacondas, 15 were stillborn and one died within a week. The two strongest managed to survive. As Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, life always finds a way.
They are not yet on display to the public.
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