Parthenogenesis – How It Is Done

Yesterday I posted a a story about one of the classic themes of biological SF – regenerative medicine. However, there is one area of SF that sees quite a different aspect of biology as more important. Feminist SF has for some time been very keen on the idea of Parthenogenesis, the ability to have babies by asexual reproduction, without the need for men.

Can it be done? Well sure. Amoeba do it all the time. For that matter is has been observed in lizards, sharks and chickens. There are (according to Wikipedia) a few cases of it having been done on small mammals. But now a German-Israeli team of biologists think that they have found a genetic trigger that turns on the ability in any species that has that gene. Thus far they have only done it in plants, but that’s obviously just a start.

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4 Responses to Parthenogenesis – How It Is Done

  1. Dr Bob says:

    My favourite real life ones are some of the all-female species of whip-tailed lizards, because they get to have their cake and eat it. They still have sex with each other (to stimulate ovulation), and they still mix up the genes (a mum with blood group AB could have babies with blood group A, B or AB), so they avoid the clone ‘monoculture’ that is so susceptible to being wiped out by disease.

    • Cheryl says:

      Yep, love ’em.

      Are whip-tails the ones with five genders or is that a different lizard?

      • Dr Bob says:

        No, that is the Side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana). I am convinced that the male sex has 3 genders in that one (that’s male sex in the biological sense – possession of testes and ability to father offspring).

        Things for me are less clear on the female sex having 2 genders, since the 2 female morphs seem to be largely about physiological differences rather than behavioural ones (size of eggs laid, etc), though they do have the yellow/orange colour coding, which MUST be a social signal to other lizards. So there is definitely behavioural stuff going on! However, I utterly failed to find any scientific literature on behaviour differences in the females, though I found random throwaway mentions that they do show some on various websites.

        When I become Ruler of the Universe, all websites will be forced to list their references and all academic journals will be open access! šŸ™‚

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