“Virgin Birth” Discovered In Crocodiles – Hints Asexual Reproduction in Dinosaurs

By Sarnith Varun

June 7, 2023
Virgin Birth Discovered In Crocodiles For The First Time Ever

Scientists at Virginia Tech recently discovered the ability to produce eggs without the involvement of a male mate in crocodiles, the process called parthenogenesis or simply “Virgin Birth”.

What is Parthenogenesis?

Reproduction from an ovum without fertilization, especially as a normal process in some invertebrates and lower plants.

An 18-year-old healthy female crocodile, despite being kept captive with no other crocodile in a Costa Rican reptile park “Parque Reptilandia”, for 16 years, laid 14 eggs in 2018, out of which 7 were found to be fertilized.[1]

However, the 7 eggs contained genetic material solely from the mother, suggesting they were parthenogens.

The eggs didn’t hatch after incubation, one out of the 7 eggs contained a developed yet dead female fetus. 

Female crocodile fetus from an unfertilized egg. Credit: Warren Booth

Upon Genome sequencing from the tissues of organs of the female fetus and shed skin from the mother, it showed a 99.9% match, confirming that it received genetic material solely from its mother.

Parthenogenesis is common in Algae, invertebrates like Tardigrades, and bees, and sometimes artificially or naturally induced in Vertebrates like Snakes, fish, and lizards.

If not all, in most species parthenogenically produced offspring do grow healthy and reproduce sexually once they are mature. 

The death of the female fetus doesn’t rule out the possibility that the species can be healthy and live after being reproduced asexually, according to Evolutionary Biologist, Warren Booth, who is part of the research team at Virginia Tech.  

Like in most cases of parthenogenesis in Vertebrates, the embryo formed after the egg cell fused with one of its own by-products during the division, the second polar body.

Warren Booth suggests that crocodiles might have shared the same ability with dinosaurs, “This discovery offers tantalizing insights into the possible reproductive capabilities of the extinct archosaurian relatives of crocodilians and birds, notably members of Pterosauria and Dinosauria,” he says.

“Life finds a way” – Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park movie

“You wouldn’t believe how many times people send me memes of Jeff Goldblum saying, ‘life finds a way,’” – Warren Booth


  1. Warren Booth et al., ‘Discovery of facultative parthenogenesis in a new world crocodile’, Biology Letters, 7 June 2023, “This unusual reproductive mode has been documented in birds, non-avian reptiles—specifically lizards and snakes—and elasmobranch fishes.”, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rsbl.2023.0129?af=R[]