Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Dragon Miracle

Quite sweet, in an odd way:

As Christmas approaches, a virgin mother is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her offspring. She's Flora, the Komodo dragon.

In an evolutionary twist, Flora has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. It would seem the timing is auspicious: the seven baby Komodo dragons are due this festive season.

"We were blown away when we realized what she'd done," said Kevin Buley, a reptile expert at Flora's home at the Chester Zoo in this town in northern England. "But we certainly won't be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus."

Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.

The reptiles, renowned for their intelligence, are native to Indonesia. They are the world's largest lizards and have no natural predators — making them on par with sharks and lions at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom.

Parthenogenesis is a clever twist for a species to survive during times when it might be hard to meet some handsome young male dragon. Handsome young male dragons, mmm.