World first as Kilkenny virgin lizard reproduces


A KILKENNY reptile zoo has reported the world’s first birth to a virgin lizard previously thought incapable of reproduction without a mate.

While other species of lizard are known to give birth by parthenogenesis – an asexual form of reproduction – James Hennessy, curator of Reptile Village Zoo in Gowran said one of its female Nile Monitor lizards had reproduced, despite having never been in contact with a male.

“This has never been known to occur in this species before,” he said. “There have been two cases of parthenogenesis recorded in Komodo Dragons – a different species of Monitor lizard found only in Indonesia – but never in Nile Monitor species from Africa, so this is a first in the world.”

Mr Hennessy said the zoo’s Monitor lizard – a species commonly found in west and central Africa – recently laid a number of eggs, two of which turned out to be fertile.

“Having a Nile Monitor reproduce in captivity is an accomplishment in itself, but what makes this even more amazing is that the female has never been with a male lizard. I was absolutely shocked.”

The young lizard was too weak to hatch and died, although Mr Hennessy said it was being preserved in the zoo.

Mr Hennessy speculated that the case might be explained by nature “finding its way” with the highly-evolved Nile Monitor. “My theory behind it would be that I’ve a female here who has never seen another male in her life. As far as she is concerned, she’s in a habitat where it looks to her like there are no males around. She needs to keep her species going, so she needs to repopulate.”