November 8th, 2010

dino

Calling all biology geeks (and snake fans).

This is cool: Snake gives 'virgin birth' to extraordinary babies. The offspring are not clones, yet have no father. They also have a combination of sex chromosomes that was previously considered non-viable. Normally in snakes ZZ is male and ZW is female, but these snakes are WW.

The very awesome thing is that To celebrate Open Access Week and the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society we are making our entire digital archive free to access from 18 October to 30 November 2010, so you can go to the Biology Letters website to read the actual journal article for free, regardless of whether you have access to an academic library. I have to say I understand about half of it - and there are NO PICTURES (boo! I want to see the unusual "caramel" colour of the babies!), but the DNA sequencing bits are cool.

I have also discovered that there is a snake called the Brahminy blind snake, or Ramphotyphlops brahminus, that is TRIPLOID! But it simply reproduces asexually, having only female snakes and producing up to 8 clones at a time. It would be awesome beyond words if it needed three snakes for sexual reproduction, like in the book Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre!

There are also two species of rodents called the Plains Viscacha-Rat (Tympanoctomys barrerae) and the Golden Vizcacha Rat (Pipanacoctomys aureus) which are tetraploid. But they appear to have male and female "rats" (they're not really rats but closer to guinea pigs, apparently) and reproduce sexually.

Life is amazing.
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