Saturday 16 February 2019

Lizard's birth is 'virgin' on the miraculous

Laura Keys

IT is being hailed as an "immaculate conception" -- but not in the Biblical sense.

The world-first birth from a virgin lizard at a reptile farm in Co Kilkenny has left scientists scratching their heads.

Nice, a 10-year-old Nile monitor lizard, has lived at the Reptile Village Zoo in Gowran, Co Kilkenny, since she was a hatchling and never had any contact with a male lizard.

Curator James Hennessy said the birth was a "miracle of nature", which has never occurred in captivity anywhere in the world before.


"This phenomenon is known as parthenogenesis and has never been known to occur in this species before," he said.

Mr Hennessy said Nice, who is one of two female Nile monitors at the zoo (the other is called Nasty) laid about 12 eggs.

"Both the lizards lay eggs most years, but we usually just throw them out," he said. "I decided to put the eggs in an incubator and see what happened. I'm still not 100pc sure why I did it this year, but I'm glad I did."

The egg should have hatched within 180 days, but as time went on, Mr Hennessy realised something was wrong.

He was devastated when he opened the egg to discover that the baby lizard had died before it could hatch.

The fully-formed baby lizard is now preserved at the zoo.

Mr Hennessy said it was still unknown why and how the "virgin birth" occurred.

"It's a huge deal. It's just absolutely amazing. It's still quite hard to believe, but I'll be keeping a close eye on the eggs from now on," he said.

'Nice', who is 4.5 feet long, was brought over to Gowran from Ghana as a hatchling.

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