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first_img“We saw blood vessels and a small embryo,” said Buley, one of the Nature study’s authors. “And we knew immediately that Flora had fertilized the eggs herself.” At the London Zoo, Sungai gave birth to four dragon hatchlings in April through self-fertilization. In the meantime, Buley and his colleagues at the Chester Zoo are eagerly anticipating the hatching of Flora’s remaining eggs. A Christmas arrival, Buley says, would probably be on the early side, since the baby dragons are not technically due until January.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! As Christmas approaches, a virgin mother is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her offspring. She’s Flora, the Komodo dragon. In an evolutionary twist, Flora has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. It would seem the timing is auspicious: The seven baby Komodo dragons are due this festive season. “We were blown away when we realized what she’d done,” said Kevin Buley, a reptile expert at Flora’s home at the Chester Zoo in this town in northern England. “But we certainly won’t be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.” Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora’s virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: John Jackson greets a Christmas that he wasn’t sure he’d seeThe cases of 8-year-old Flora and the London lizard, Sungai, are described in a paper published today in Nature. Parthenogenesis is a process in which eggs become embryos without male fertilization. It has been seen in about 70 species, including snakes and lizards. Scientists are unsure whether female Komodo dragons have always had this latent ability to reproduce or if this is a new evolutionary development. Flora’s keepers first became suspicious in May, when she laid 25 eggs. Though it’s not uncommon for female dragons to lay eggs without mating, such eggs are not usually fertilized. As a precaution, they were placed in an incubator. About half of Flora’s eggs looked like real eggs – they were very white and had solid shells. When three of them collapsed, scientists took a closer look. last_img read more