Snake mistaken as male gives birth to 14 snakelets in rare incident: ‘Virgin birth’

An animal care technician who has been caring for the snake named Ronaldo said “she had not had contact with a male” snake.

The image shows the 14 snakelets a snake gave birth to in a rare incident. (Instagram/@yourcopc)

A 13-year-old snake gave birth to 14 tiny snakelets, leaving many surprised. Why? Reportedly, the reptile, Ronaldo, who gave birth earlier this week at the City of Portsmouth College, did so despite having no contact with other snakes. Also, until it gave birth, the snake was identified as a male.

Pete Quinlan, an animal care technician at the college, told the BBC that “she had not had contact with a male” snake in her nine years there.

The process of giving virgin births, a rare phenomenon that only happened three times to a Brazilian rainbow boa constrictors, is called parthenogenesis shared the BBC.

What is parthenogenesis?

It is a form of “asexual reproduction”, reported the outlet. In Greek, “parthenos” means virgin and “genesis” is creation. In this process, fertilisation of the egg takes place without the presence of a male gamete to form a zygote.

Quinlan started his career in the college only two years ago and brought all his snakes with him, including Ronaldo, whom he rescued from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) about nine years ago.

Quinlan recalled that he was elsewhere during the delivery, and a student alerted one of the staff members about the presence of multiple snakelets in a tank.

“I raced down here to see what was going on, and lo and behold, there were baby snakes everywhere,” Quinlan told the BBC.

The college also shared a video of the snake on Instagram. “We’re all still in shock! But we couldn’t be happier. Ronaldo has been with our Animal Care Technician Pete for the past 9 years after being rescued by the RSPCA, and was believed to be male up until now!” they wrote.

Turns out Ronaldo is not the only creature who surprised people by giving birth without the presence of a male companion. Have you heard about an 18-year-old American female crocodile who gave birth in a zoo in Costa Rica last year?

The incident left scientists shocked. The foetus is reportedly 99.9% genetically similar to its mother.

“We see it in sharks, birds, snakes and lizards, and it is remarkably common and widespread”, said Dr Warren Booth told the BBC after analysing the fetus. The zoo acquired the crocodile at age two, and it has been kept separate from the rest.

A study published in Biology Reports says parthenogenesis has never been reported in reptiles like alligators, crocodiles and gharials.

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