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Virgin birth found in wild vertebrates
First time "evolutionary novelty" found in wild animals

Researchers in the US have found a form of virgin birth in wild vertebrates for the first time, after genetically analysing pregnant females from two snake species.

They found that North American pit vipers reproduced without a male in a phenomenon called facultative parthenogenesis, previously only found in captive species, and scientists say the findings could change our understanding of animal reproduction and vertebrate evolution.

Thought to be extremely rare for normally sexual species, asexual reproduction was first identified in domestic chickens and, in recent years, reported in a few snake, shark, lizard and bird species.

However, all such "virgin births" have occurred in captivity to females kept away from males, and have in general been considered "evolutionary novelties."

Professor Warren Booth, from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, worked with a team to investigate virgin births in copperhead and cottonmouth female pit-vipers, where males were present.

Professor Booth, lead author of the paper published in the Royal Society's Biological Letters, said of the: "I think the frequency is what really shocked us. That's between 2.5 and 5% of litters produced in these populations may be resulting from parthenogenesis."

He added: "That's quite remarkable for something that has been considered an evolutionary novelty."

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Working dogs help celebrate 50 years of Eye Scheme

News Story 1
 Fifty working dogs and 50 dogs over eight years old are being offered free eye examinations to celebrate 50 years of the Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme.

The main purpose of the Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme, which currently screens for 12 conditions in over 50 breeds, is to ensure there is no evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs used for breeding.

Organisers say that The Canine Health Scheme, run by the BVA and Kennel Club, will approach a number of working dog organisations to organise the exams.

Owners of dogs that are over eight can contact the CHS office on 020 7908 6380 for details of their nearest participating eye panelist. 

News Shorts
Princess Anne presents award to Moredun chief

The Royal Smithfield Club has awarded its prestigious bicentenary trophy to Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, for her "outstanding contribution" to promoting the highest standards of livestock health and welfare in the UK and worldwide. Prof Fitzpatrick is chief executive of the Moredun Group and scientific director of the Moredun Research Institute. Upon receiving her award from HRH the Princess Royal, she said she was "greatly honoured", and thanked her colleagues at Moredun, foundation members, the Royal Smithfield Club and the livestock industry.