An Asian water dragon hatched from an egg at the Smithsonian National Zoo, and her keepers were shocked. Why? Her mother had never been with a male water dragon. 

Through genetic testing, scientists at the Smithsonian National Zoo discovered an Asian water dragon had been produced through a reproductive mode called parthenogenesis.

Parthenogenesis, a Greek word meaning “virgin creation,” specifically refers to female asexual reproduction. While many people may assume this behavior is the domain of science fiction or religious texts, parthenogenesis is surprisingly common and is found in a variety of organisms, including plants, insects, fish, reptiles, and even birds. ⁠

Parthenogenesis is a Greek word meaning “virgin creation,” but specifically refers to female asexual reproduction.

Females of these species, which include some wasps, crustaceans, and lizards, reproduce only through parthenogenesis and are called obligate parthenogens.

Scientists have learned spontaneous parthenogenesis may be a heritable trait, meaning females that suddenly experience parthenogenesis might be more likely to have daughters that can do the same.

Though spontaneous parthenogenesis appears to be rare, it does provide some benefits to the female who can achieve it. In some cases, it can allow females to generate their own mating partners.


  • Mehr Ali is a Journalist, photographer, and football player.