The fraudulent South Korean stem cell research program was a scandal which not only discouraged the scientific community, but which probably seriously damaged the prospects for stem cell research in this country.

But sometimes there are diamonds in the ashes. One such finding is this: the revelation that there were some stem cells produced through solely through the division of cells from a donor female's egg: parthenogenesis, in other words.

Now, this is not the same thing as a parthenogenetically-produced cell properly differentiating into a viable organism: that would constitute (heh) a 'virgin birth'. As far as we know, no female mammal, marsupial or placental, has ever conceived without sex.

But lizards and fish? There are many such examples, including the all-female whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorus sp.) shown copulating above. Yes, that's right, copulating. Albeit without so much as a baculum. These were featured on a wonderful episode of PBS's 'Evolution' series a few years ago. Highly recommended.

(The show, that is, not the lesbian lizards who are all in a sense Virgin Mothers.)

No comments: