The science behind virgin births

Komodo Dragon, virgin birth

In some species, a female’s egg cell can develop into an embryo without being fertilised. This form of asexual reproduction is called parthenogenesis (Greek for ‘virgin birth’) and occurs in many plants and insects, as well as certain fish and reptiles, including Komodo dragons and hammerhead sharks. Some species reproduce exclusively through parthenogenesis, while others use it as a back-up option when there are no males. In most species, parthenogenesis produces offspring with two identical sets of chromosomes, making them half-clones of their mother.