The first “virgin birth” of a condor in America

The first “virgin birth” of a condor in America
The first “virgin birth” of a condor in America

Scientists have reported the first known “virgin birth” in a California condor, where two birds were born without any males involved in fertilizing the eggs. In the study published yesterday, in the Journal of Genetics, which documented this case, the researchers made an unexpected discovery, which is that the genomes of these two birds do not contain DNA for any of the male condors, after reviewing a genetic database that includes all types of condors in the world. California.
Researchers reported that the two orphaned condors, which were born without a father, are rare examples of a type of asexual reproduction called parthenogenesis. During parthenogenesis, spontaneous embryonic development occurs without fertilization, and this is the first example of a “virgin birth” that produces viable birds in a group of wild condors. The discovery of this male-free reproductive strategy in California condors is significant because only a few decades ago, the species came dangerously close to disappearing from the wild.
In the 1980s, fewer than two dozen condors remained in the wild, but dedicated conservation efforts and breeding programs brought condors back to the brink of extinction. As of 2020, there were 504 condors, of which 329 were wild, and the rest were free-flying, according to a report published in December of that year by the California Condor Restoration Program of the US Department of the Interior.
However, this species is still a critically endangered species, so finding that condors can reproduce asexually increases the bird’s chances of producing offspring, and that’s a pretty big deal, says study co-author Cynthia Steiner, associate director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
Over the past 30 years, researchers have cataloged DNA data from every California condor, and there are more than 1,000 birds in total in a database.
Steiner adds that scientists working with condors routinely perform genetic analysis of birds to determine the relationships that enable them to breed condors in a way that maintains genetic diversity, and this approach helps prevent inbreeding and the development of inherited disorders that lead to deformities in fetuses and late embryo death.

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