This anaconda don’t want none

And she don’t need none, either:

Staffers at the New England Aquarium last winter were setting up for an after-hours event near the Amazon rain forest exhibit when they made an unexpected discovery.

Anna the anaconda — 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms), 8 years old and 10 feet (3 meters) long — had given birth to a litter of baby snakes.

Aquarium staff notified the resident biologist, who scrambled into the tank and found three live babies and about a dozen stillborn.

On its face, anaconda birth isn’t unusual. Anaconda have no trouble reproducing in aquarium settings, and the snakes living in this Amazon exhibit were no exception.

If left to freely breed, green anaconda like Anna can have dozens of babies at a time, which is precisely why staffers at this Boston aquarium had taken great care to keep male and female snakes in separate tanks.

By design, Anna’s roommates were all female. She had no contact with males.

And yet, she had still, somehow, become pregnant.

Was it magic? Divine intervention? A secret, late-night reptile tryst?

Not some weird reptile dysfunction at all, in fact:

The staffers immediately suspected a rare reproductive strategy called parthenogenesis, which means that a female organism can self-impregnate. (The word itself is of Greek origin. Its translation means “virgin birth.”) The phenomenon is far more common in plants and insects, but it has been documented in some lizard, shark, bird and snake species.

Just once before, at a zoo in the United Kingdom in 2014, had scientists documented a parthenogenesis case in green anaconda whose young were born alive.

None of this, however, is necessary to explain Baby Shark.

1 comment »

  1. Dan T. »

    20 June 2019 · 6:34 pm

    I’ve heard that an asexually-reproducing species of crawfish was recently discovered, which apparently arose by mutation around the 1990s.

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