Frustrated Sawfish Create Miracle of Virgin Birth

By Gary Cutlack on at

A collection of sawfish in the US has been observed having babies without there being any sex or even kissing involved along the way, making it the first recorded case of virgin-born animal offspring being discovered in the wild.

It's not as rare as you might think. Some birds and reptiles have the ability to reproduce without any form of sex being involved, although such bizarre cases are usually observed in zoos, where the natural order of things can go a bit astray. This sawfish case, though, as reported in Biology, is different, because it seems to be a stress-free, natural phenomenon, after which the healthy offspring live on as normal -- albeit with just the one parent.

Andrew Fields from Stony Brook University, one of the report's authors, explained: "We were conducting routine DNA fingerprinting of the sawfish found in this area in order to see if relatives were often reproducing with relatives due to their small population size. What the DNA fingerprints told us was altogether more surprising: female sawfish are sometimes reproducing without even mating."

The students sampled the DNA of 190 sawfish in total, finding DNA that suggested seven of them were the fortunate spawn of virgin births. [BBC]

Image credit: Sawfish from Shutterstock