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Don’t have sex, we are condors

NSEW animals It is more endangered than the California Condor, but survives. Thousands of people were killed as a result of jumping into electrical cables and being poisoned by lead bullets from the carcasses of abandoned hunting animals. By 1982, only 22 people remained. These relics were rounded up and brought into a captive breeding program that proved amazing success. Thanks to the efforts of a team of conservationists coordinated by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, there are currently 329 condors flying freely in western North America and 175 condors caring for various zoos.

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As the accuracy of these numbers shows, these birds are the most closely monitored in the world. So it was a shock when Alliance geneticist Oliver Rider discovered that the two females under scrutiny laid unfertilized eggs on the males and then hatched.

As Dr. Ryder and his colleagues report this week Genetic journalBoth females had ample opportunity to mate, as she was housed with a male that had successfully bred in the past. Indeed, one of them raised a whopping 23 chicks before laying the fertilized unfertilized egg in question. She and her companion then raised two more.

Parthenogenesis is common in invertebrates, as is known for this form of male-free reproduction, and is not unprecedented in vertebrates. Some snakes indulge in it. So is the Komodo dragon. However, it was rarely recorded in birds, and when seen (as seen in domestic turkeys), it was always in a male-free situation, so it was the only reproductive option available. ..

In nature, it’s rare that there are no men around. On the other hand, it is difficult to tell whether parthenogenesis occurs in wild birds because it requires thorough genetic screening of chicks, which is rarely done in ornithology research projects.

In this case, neither chick thrived. One released into the wild near Big Sur State Park in California was unable to thrive there and probably died of starvation at the age of two. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a rare fate for reintroducers. The other, which was kept in captivity as part of a breeding program, failed to breed and died of complications from a leg injury near the age of eight.

Therefore, at this time, it is difficult to tell if Dr. Ryder encountered an interesting and previously unrecognized mode of bird breeding, or a slightly broader anomaly. But if Condors, and perhaps other bird species, are parthenogenetically bred on a daily basis, then some rewrites of the textbook would definitely be correct.

This article was published in the printed version of the Science and Technology section under the heading “Don’t have sex, we are Condors”.

Don’t have sex, we are condors

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