This Lady Lizard Can Reproduce Without a Mate

Self-fertilization may help the world’s largest lizard survive.

The Komodo dragon, the largest species of lizard now alive, can grow to 10 feet long and nearly 200 pounds. A muscular carnivore armed with sharp teeth, Varanus komodoensis dines on prey as large as deer, wild boar, and water buffalo.

As formidable as the Komodo dragon seems, it’s very much at risk. On seven Indonesian islands that are the only places the species lives in the wild, humans burn its habitat to clear land and poach animals on which it preys. Even on land protected as Komodo National Park, officials reported just 3,013 Komodo dragons in 2016, down from 3,222 in 2013.

When her species needs replenishing, what’s a mother dragon to do? She can reproduce the old-fashioned way, by mating with a male and laying eggs. Or she can lay eggs without having mated, through a sort of virgin birth process called parthenogenesis.

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