A pair of Komodo dragons born at the Cameron Park Zoo may have been born without their mother ever having a partner. Komodo Dragons are capable of parthenogenesis. This means the egg does not need to be fertilised to mate as the mother’s chromosome duplicates and the egg is still able to hatch. As the mother, Neoma has never been introduced to the male, Thurber by keepers they believe there is no way the babies could have a father.
The zoo does have one line of questioning left to follow up though. The two Komodo dragon enclosures are separated by wire and while unlikely keepers want to find out if Thurber climbed this mesh to meet Neoma. To rule this out keepers are going to send off DNA samples from the young dragons to be tested.
If they have been born by parthenogenesis the keepers will know the young dragons are both male due to the genetics of Komodo dragon sex determination.
Thurber was actually born in a clutch produced through parthenogenesis. He hatched at Sedgewick Country Zoo in Wichita Kansas during 2008. This was the first documented case of parthenogenesis in an American Zoo. If this birth was conducted through parthenogenesis then it will be only the 4th time this has happened in a zoo worldwide.
At the present time keepers do not have names for the young dragons. They are being referred to as ‘number one’ and ‘number two.’ These numbers refer to their hatch date with one emerging from its egg on August 29th and the other on September 1st. Keepers are setting up a naming contest on the zoo’s facebook page which can be found at-www.facebook.com/cameronparkzoo
While these little dragons look cute now they will one day grow to be almost as fearsome as their namesake. These two creatures share a forked tongue and a fearsome mouth. While they can’t breathe fire their 60 teeth deliver a bite that injects bacteria that will cause the prey to die from septicaemia. They are the world’s largest carnivorous lizard living on only four small Indonesian islands.
This species is considered to be severely endangered in their natural home due to disease, volcanic activity and competition with dogs and man.
‘Number one’ and ‘number two’ are alternating turns on exhibit in the zoo’s herpetarium.
Photo Credit: Cameron Park Zoo