The hatchlings were conceived through an asexual reproduction process called parthenogenesis.
We have all heard the saying, “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” and in the case of the female Komodo dragon formerly at the Denver Zoo, that means making her own babies, without the help of a male.
On Friday, April 24, the Denver Zoo shared that they had two new Komodo dragon hatchlings and the babies had been conceived through the asexual reproduction process of parthenogenesis. Mother dragon, Kristica, laid a clutch of eggs seven months ago, but is no longer at the Zoo, having been sent to another zoo a few months ago. The babies named Malcolm and Owen will stay at the Denver Zoo, for now. One will stay as a permanent resident, while the other will head to another zoo when the time is right.
Also, to answer your questions—yes, the zoo staff picked the names Malcolm and Owen as a nod to the Jurassic Park/World characters.
You can meet the new dragons in this video from the Zoo:
Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction where the parent is able to produce an egg without fertilization. The baby is able to take a chromosome from its parent and then use meiosis to replicate it. According to Scientific American, only 70 backboned species that are able to do so, including Komodo dragons.
“Evidently, in the case of these Komodos, the doubling of the egg genes occurred when, in essence, another egg, rather than sperm, did the job of fertilization. Oogenesis, the biological process of making an egg cell, typically also yields a polar body--a mini ovum of sorts, containing a duplicate copy of egg DNA. Normally, this polar body shrivels up and disappears. In the case of the Komodos, though, polar bodies evidently acted as sperm and turned ova into embryos," said Scientific American.
Even though their mom has been relocated, it won't phase these little ones. There's no evidence that Komodo dragons care for their young once hatched, and in the wild, the babies will run and hide to avoid being eaten by their mothers or other older dragons.
The Denver Zoo lost its popular male Komodo dragon, Raja, in March 2019.
Did you know Komodo dragons could reproduce in this way? Let us know what you think about all this in the comments below.