The female yellow-bellied water snake is captive and has been alone for the the past eight years.
A female water snake has given birth to a snake baby in Missouri. The surprising thing is that the snake is captive and has not interacted with a member of the opposite sex for the last eight years.
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Officials at Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center in Missouri say this is the second time when a yellow-bellied water snake has reproduced an offspring on her own. In the previous year, the same snake gave birth to babies. Those baby snakes are still living but the recent one could not survive.
According to conservation center, “Virgin birth” cases in yellow-bellied water snakes are very rare, in fact, this snake is first of her species to experience such births. Reproduction without fertilization is known as parthenogenesis.
“There are many types of parthenogenesis,” said MDC Herpetologist Jeff Briggler. “In layman’s term, parthenogenesis is a mode of asexual reproduction in which the offspring (babies) are produced by females without genetic contribution of a male.”
It occurs in some insects like bees, wasps as well as in some species of fishes, amphibians, birds and reptiles. The yellow-bellied snake is the latest to be entered in this category.
“For many years, it was believed that such birth in captivity was due to sperm storage,” explained Briggler. “However, genetics is proving a different story.”
Storing sperm for as long as eight years while remaining captive is scientifically illogical, according to researchers. It’s more likely the process of parthenogenesis causing these births. Briggler believes that parthenogenesis is probably more widespread than scientists are actually thinking right now. More genetic work needs to be conducted to find out how often it occurs in various species.
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Yellow-bellied snake is a medium sized, semiacquatic snake which is mostly found in ponds, lakes and swamps. This species gives birth to live young and usually mating takes place in April and May.