On the Trails: Parthenogenesis in vertebrates


By Mary F. Willson

When we talk of “single parents,” we refer to a family that has only a mother (or sometimes only a father) raising the offspring. But there’s another way to be a single parent — when an individual makes the offspring all by itself, with no participation of anybody else at any stage. There are many examples of plants and invertebrates that can produce offspring by splitting off pieces of themselves, and the pieces grow into new individuals. Or, they reproduce by parthenogenesis (“virgin birth”): a fatherless embryo develops without a sperm joining an egg to start the process and the unfertilized eggs develop directly

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