Recent Advances in the Field of Parthenogenesis in Snakes

Booth, Warren                                                                                                                          

Department of Biological Science                                                                                                        

The University of Tulsa                                                                                                                        

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA                                                                                                               


Chiricahua Desert Museum                                                                                                                  

Rodeo, New Mexico, USA


Card, Daren                                                                                                                                     

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology                                                                      

Harvard University                                                                                                                          

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA 


Castoe, Todd A.                                                                                                                           

Department of Biology                                                                                                                     

University of Texas at Arlington                                                                                                      

Arlington, Texas, USA


Vonk, Freek                                                                                                                                      

Naturalis Biodiversity Center                                                                                                                    

Leiden, The Netherlands


Wüster, Wolfgang                                                                                                                               

Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit                                                                                               

School of Natural Sciences                                                                                                             

Bangor University                                                                                                                             

Bangor, UK


Chiricahua Desert Museum                                                                                                                 

Rodeo, New Mexico, USA


Casewell, Nicholas R.                                                                                                                                  

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine                                                                 

Liverpool, UK


Schuett, Gordon W.                                                                                                                      

Department of Biology and Neuroscience Institute                                                                          

Georgia State University                                                                                                                        

Atlanta, Georgia, USA 


Chiricahua Desert Museum                                                                                                                 

Rodeo, New Mexico, USA


In recent years it has become clear that snakes may represent an ideal model system for study of vertebrate parthenogenesis. Phylogenetically widespread, parthenogenesis has been reported as obligatory in the basal Brahminy Blind Snake (Indotyphlops braminus) and facultative in all of the other lineages. In those taxa demonstrated to exhibit facultative parthenogenesis (FP), a diversity of forms has been discovered with regard to characteristics of the resulting parthenogens. These include differences in sex chromosome morphology and number, viability, and sex of the parthenogens. This, in concert with the first records of viable reproduction by a parthenogen, has shed light on sex chromosome evolution which, in turn, has resulted in the identification of both ZW and XY sex chromosome systems in snakes. Recent findings in pitvipers have informed, and indeed yielded, additional questions regarding the inheritance and complexity of venom. Current research has focused on the levels of heterozygosity retained by individual parthenogens and the genomic regions of retention. New results in our labs bring into question the assumed mechanism of terminal fusion automixis as the pathway for producing FP progeny. This strongly suggests that our understanding of FP (and related phenomena) is likely far from complete.



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