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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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University of Liverpool joins fight against Zika

News Story 1
 The University of Liverpool is collaborating with 25 leading research and public health organisations in the fight against Zika virus.

As part of the ZikaPLAN consortium, the University will work on improving the diagnosis of Zika, better understanding the neurological complications, and working towards vaccines and treatments.

Other organisations in the consortium will explore non-vector and vector transmission and risk factors for geographic spread. They will also measure the burden of disease and investigate how the virus has evolved.

(Image (C) The University of Liverpool) 

News Shorts
First Eastern European Veterinary Conference a 'resounding success'

The first ever Eastern European Veterinary Conference organised with the support of BSAVA has been declared a 'resounding success' by delegates, exhibitors, sponsors and organisers alike.

The event, held in Belgrade in October, welcomed some 1,000 vets from 37 different countries across Eastern Europe and beyond.

The BSAVA has confirmed that planning for next year's conference is underway when it will become known as The Eastern European Regional Veterinary Conference (EERVC) to better represent the broad range of countries attending.