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California Condors Can Have Virgin Births According to Study

Grumpy old man looks over spectacles, shocked and disapproving

Photo: Getty Images

Endangered California condors can have "virgin births."

According to Huffington Post researchers with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance said genetic testing confirmed that two male chicks hatched in 2001 and 2009 from unfertilized eggs were related to their mothers. Neither was related to the male.

This is the first study of asexual reproduction in California condors. However parthenogenesis can occur in other species ranging from sharks to honey bees to Komodo dragons.

Condors are strange because this phenomena only occurs when females don't have access to the males. In this case, each mother condor had previously bred with males, producing 34 chicks, and each was housed with fertile male at the time they produced the egg through parthenogenesis. The researchers said they believe it is the first case of asexual reproduction in any avian species where the female has access to a mate.

The asexual reproduction was discovered some years ago during widespread testing of genetic material collected over decades from condors, both living and dead, in breeding programs and in the wild.

"Among 467 male California condors tested in the percentage analysis, no male qualified as a potential sire." of the two birds, the study said.

California condors can live up to 60 years, but both males were sickly. One was less than 2 years onld when he died, and the other lived less than 8 years.

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