Tags: sawfish | virgin | births | avoid | extinction

Sawfish Virgin Births a Way of Avoiding Eventual Extinction?

By    |   Tuesday, 02 Jun 2015 07:42 AM

Endangered sawfish in Florida have performed seven virgin births, scientists have discovered. That's now how they have normally reproduced.

The Miami Herald reported Monday that the seven sawfish are thought to be the first vertebrates born via asexual reproduction, and were cataloged by in the journal Current Biology by Stony Brook University researchers working in tandem with Florida scientists.

Asexual reproduction is somewhat common in insects, crabs, and other invertebrates, and is also seen from time to time in some birds, reptiles, and sharks. The revelation that the vertebrate sawfish are in on the trick of nature is surprising, however.

"There was a general feeling that . . . parthenogenesis was a curiosity that didn’t usually lead to viable offspring," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Gregg Poulakis. "This suggests parthenogenesis is not a reproductive dead end."

The offspring, which reside in the Caloosahatchee and Peace Rivers, are speculated to have developed a need for asexual reproduction because of their dwindling numbers. The fish, which can live over 15 years, have been decimated by commercial fishing over the years; their overall population is just 5 percent of what it once was.

"We definitely have to find the trigger," Poulakis said, referring to the immaculate conceptions. "Now we know that there’s some parthenogenic sawfish in the wild, do they live long enough to reproduce? That’s the next step."

Andrew Fields, a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post that his team will continue to monitor the virgin offspring to see if they have any genetic disadvantage to their counterparts that have two parents.

"There’s something that happens that makes an individual less fit when the mother yields [via parthenogenesis], or at least that’s the idea," Fields said. "The fact that we are seeing these survive in the wild is a big step. As far as we can tell ... there was no outward sign of them not behaving as the other ones that we saw."

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Endangered sawfish in Florida have performed seven virgin births, scientists have discovered. That's now how they have normally reproduced.
sawfish, virgin, births, avoid, extinction
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2015-42-02
Tuesday, 02 Jun 2015 07:42 AM
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