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'Ronaldo seemed too fat': snake thought to be male gave birth to 14 children in 'immaculate conception'

'Ronaldo seemed too fat': snake thought to be male gave birth to 14 children in 'immaculate conception'
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A rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria), previously thought to be a male, gave birth to 14 baby snakes after nearly ten years of isolation. A 13-year-old snake named Ronaldo had not come into contact with any other snakes for at least nine years. Ronaldo was a rescued snake previously identified as male by a veterinarian.

"The student found them during a routine check of the vivarium. At first, we thought she had made a mistake. We couldn't believe our eyes!" said Amanda Macleod, an animal care technician at the College of Portsmouth in the UK, where the snake is kept.

 

This is the third recorded case of "virgin birth" in a Brazilian rainbow boa. Virgin birth, known as parthenogenesis, is a type of asexual reproduction. It occurs occasionally in species that normally reproduce sexually. The phenomenon is extremely rare, but has been documented in several species in captivity - birds, sharks, lizards, other snakes, and crocodiles.

"Ronaldo looked a bit thicker than usual, as if he had eaten a lot, but we never for a moment thought he, or rather she, was pregnant," said Pete Quinlan, a reptile specialist at the college.

During parthenogenesis, eggs mature without fertilization by sperm. In some cases, the eggs can be fertilized by a "polar body," a small cell that forms in the reproductive tract alongside the egg cell. There are several different mechanisms of parthenogenesis, and it is unclear which specific mechanism prompted Ronaldo to give birth to offspring.

The boa was brought to the College of Portsmouth after being returned there by an animal welfare charity. The baby snakes are currently being assessed to determine their sex, and are being placed in new enclosures. Once they are large enough, they will be relocated.

Source: LiveScience

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