ST. LOUIS (AP) — For the second time in two years, a captive snake in southeast Missouri has given birth without any interaction with a member of the opposite sex.
Officials at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center say a female yellow-bellied water snake reproduced on her own in 2014 and again this summer. The snake has been living in captivity, without a male companion, for nearly eight years. An intern who cares for the snake found the freshly laid membranes in July.
This year’s offspring didn’t survive, but the two born last summer are on display at the nature center, about 100 miles south of St. Louis.
Conservation Department herpetologist Jeff Briggler said virgin births are rare but can occur in some species through a process called parthenogenesis. It occurs in some insects, fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles, including some snakes, but not mammals.
Parthenogenesis is a type of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs, meaning there is no genetic contribution by a male. It’s caused when cells known as polar bodies, which are produced with an animal’s egg and usually die, behave like sperm and fuse with the egg, triggering cell division.