April 12, 2005

Evolution in Action

The American Museum of Natural History website has an intriguing article up about the whiptail lizard, and how they avoid a problem that occurs among most species when cross-bred in nature.

Most products of crossbreeding, such as the mule, are sterile. But the New Mexico Whiptail, as well as several other all-female species of whiptail lizard, does reproduce, and all of its offspring are female. Moreover, it reproduces by parthenogenesis -- its eggs require no fertilization, and its offspring are exact and complete genetic duplicates of the mother.

The article is short but interesting, and makes me wonder anew at the workings of Mother Nature. Here, she's obviously used natural selection to solve a common problem, by eliminating the wet spot.

Posted by Ted at April 12, 2005 04:16 PM
Category: SciTech

Natural cloning in a multicellular species? That's just not right. The entire population would have had to have come from a single ancestor, and every whiptail lizard genetically identitcal to every other one. Something smells fishy.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at April 12, 2005 09:54 PM

Well, there's no April 1st date on that page, so this looks legit.

My edumicated guess is that a lizard once produced an accidentally "fertilized" (with complete DNA and chromosomes) egg and laid it. Then her every subsequent egg produced was also "fertilized" and then allowed to grow and be laid, and so on and so on... and now we've got all these identical, self-replicating lizards running around. Fascinating!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at April 12, 2005 10:03 PM
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