Study finds California condors can have ‘virgin births’

A study published Thursday revealed that endangered California condors can have “virgin births.”

Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said genetic testing confirmed that two male chicks hatched in 2001 and 2009 from unfertilized eggs that were attached to their mothers. It has nothing to do with mentioning.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Genetics. It is the first report of asexual reproduction in California condors, although parthenogenesis can occur in other species ranging from sharks to honeybees to Komodo dragons.

But in birds, this usually only happens when the females do not have access to the males. In this case, each mother condor had previously been reared with males, and produced 34 chicks, each of which had a fertile male at the time they produced eggs through parthenogenesis.

The researchers said they believe this is the first case of asexual reproduction in any bird species where a female has had access to a mate.

“These findings now raise questions about whether this might happen undetected in other species,” said Oliver Rider, co-author of the study and director of conservation genetics at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

The nonprofit alliance operates the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and has been involved in a California condor breeding program that has helped bring giant vultures back from imminent extinction.

With a wingspan of 10 feet, California condors are the largest flying birds in North America. I once ranged all over the West Coast. But only 22 people survived in the 1980s when the US government captured them and placed them in zoos for captive breeding. About 160 were bred at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.

There are now more than 500 condors in California, including more than 300 released into the wild in California, Arizona, Utah and Mexico.

Asexual reproduction was discovered a few years ago during extensive testing of genetic material collected over decades from condors, both live and dead, in breeding programs and in the wild.

“Of the 467 male California condors tested in the pedigree analysis, no male qualified to be a potential father” to the birds, the study said.

California condors can live up to 60 years, but both males were sick. One at his death was less than two years old, and the other lived less than eight years.

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