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Virgin birth found in wild vertebrates
Snake
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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News Shorts
UC Davis Vets to host One Health symposium

The University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is set to host the inaugural One Health Symposium on August 24, 2014.

The symposium will address health issues currently affecting much of the world, such as emerging infectious diseases, as well as common health concerns that affect both humans and animals, like diabetes and cancer.

Dr. Karl Jandrey, director of the Centre for Continuing Professional Education, said: "With the recent outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases around the world, it is important that health care professionals gather at events like the One Health Symposium to share thought-provoking ideas that show interplay between all of Earth's inhabitants."

"UC Davis physicians, veterinarians, ecologists, biologists, and stakeholders will all be at this event to discuss and debate many important topics that impact us all. The symposium will be a great showcase of the strengths that we have in One Health at UC Davis in both the School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine."

The event is open to all and webinar access is available for those unable to attend in person. More information and registration for the symposium can be found at www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ce