“In these populations, males are relatively common, hence females were not restricted from access to males, and therefore isolation from males is not a driving factor for parthenogenic reproduction (virgin births) here.”
—Warren Booth, assistant professor of molecular ecology at the University of Tulsa’s Department of Biological Sciences, discusses his recent study of virgin birth among boa constrictors and copperhead snakes in the wild. Previously, the phenomenon of virgin birth—as documented among chickens, lizards, nurse sharks and lots of other animals—was assumed to be a freak occurrence; an emergency biological response to gender segregation brought about by captivity. But the findings of Booth and his colleagues indicate that as many as up to five percent of snake litters may be parthenogenic. There are plenty of male snakes out there to fertilize the females’ eggs, but for some reason, the lady snakes just don’t need ’em. Hanna Rosin will be so pleased! Awl pal Maria Bustillos will not.