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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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WSAVA to extend 'One Care' project to new regions

News Story 1
 Following the success of WSAVA's 'One Care' initiative in Asia, the organisation plans to extend it to new regions. The project has been running for three years and aims to improve standards of care in countries where companion animal practice is still emerging. Among other successes, in the past 12 months, One Care has seen the Veterinary Practitioners of Thailand develop its own hospital standards, and the Philippines Animal Hospital Association develop an animal welfare assessment framework.

One Care leader Dr Siraya Chunekamrai is planning an initiative with the Cambodian Veterinary Medical Association, which is keen to develop the profession in the country during 2017. 

News Shorts
Pirbright Institute takes delivery of new supercomputer

The Pirbright Institute has taken delivery of a new supercomputer which will help to process and analyse the huge amounts of data generated by its research projects.

Genome research manages massive amounts of data, which requires vast computer processing and storage capacity.

Researchers say that by eliminating the bottlenecks that often occur in data analysis, it will be possible to generate information about increasing numbers of viral diseases.