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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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Glasgow given £300K funding for Zika research

News Story 1
 Researchers at the University of Glasgow's MRC Centre for Virus Research have been awarded a £300,000 grant to study the Zika virus alongside a research centre at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil.

Zika has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation. It has spread to more than 20 countries in Central and South America and has been linked with microcephaly (abnormal smallness of the head) in newborns.

The research teams will study the presence and epidemiology of the virus in Brazil and hope to improve understanding of how the immune system responds to infection. Their work will be used to support vaccine development studies.  

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