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Immaculate Conception In a Boa Constrictor 478

crudmonkey writes "Researchers have discovered a biological shocker: female boa constrictors are capable of giving birth asexually. But the surprise doesn't end there. The study in Biology Letters found that boa babies produced through this asexual reproduction — also known as parthenogenesis — sport a chromosomal oddity that researchers thought was impossible in reptiles. While researchers admit that the female in the study may have been a genetic freak, they say the findings should press researchers to re-think reptile reproduction. Virgin birth among reptiles, especially primitive ones like boas, they argue may be far commoner than ever expected."
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Immaculate Conception In a Boa Constrictor

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  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:34PM (#34120382)
    This can only fuel the cult of Raptor Jesus to unimaginable new heights.
  • Isn't this what happened in Jurassic Park?
  • If i remember correctly, the last time this happened it didn't end well.

  • Incorrect title (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Immaculate conception != virgin birth.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:38PM (#34120408)

    A lot of people make the mistake of equating "Immaculate Conception" to the virgin birth of Jesus. Actually, it refers to the birth of Mary (mother of Jesus) being born without Original Sin. What the author is referring to is the Annunciation, which is the virgin conception of Jesus within Mary.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception [wikipedia.org]

  • by Imnimo (1264154) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:40PM (#34120424)
    This is not what Immaculate Conception means. The Immaculate Conception is the conception of Mary, not of Jesus, with the idea being that Mary is conceived without original sin so as to make her a proper vessel for Jesus. Then again, since snakes don't have original sin, maybe every snake conception is immaculate.
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:40PM (#34120428) Homepage Journal
    Two WW chromosomes. In mammals, we have X and Y chromosomes to determine sex—but in reptiles, fish, and of course birds, the norm for a female is ZW, and the norm for a male is ZZ. This brought to you by Tilde R: Helping Those Who Hate RTFA.
  • by yamum (893083) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:40PM (#34120430)
  • by Burning1 (204959) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:41PM (#34120434) Homepage

    Asexual reproduction isn't the same as virgin birth.

    For all we know, that snake is a slut.

  • First Spielberg/Chrichton makes movie Raptors 6ft tall before they find real ones, now female lizards can spontaneously reproduce?

    Someone should be asking those guys about their reality-altering machine.


  • It's not immaculate conception, it's a virgin birth. They are different. Immaculate conception means born without original sin (as in Mary was born without original sin and thus Christ was too). If you want more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception [wikipedia.org]

    I know this is a common misunderstanding but it is incorrect. I'm not Catholic, I've just been corrected about it in the past and thought I'd pass on the knowledge.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:43PM (#34120452)
    I always wondered where telemarketers came from.
  • Chromosomal Oddity (Score:5, Informative)

    by cappp (1822388) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:43PM (#34120454)
    The summary skips out on the interesting detail there

    The mother in question gave birth to not one, but two snake litters of all-female snakes with WW-chromosomes. Male snake cells have two Z chromosomes, while female snakes have a Z and a W. This is the first time a reptile has been seen with two W chromosomes, something thought peculiar to fish and amphibians. The snakes' litters also retained the mother's rare genetic coloring

    Also direct links to the study are here [royalsocie...ishing.org] and here [royalsocie...ishing.org](pdf). The paper is "Evidence for viable, non-clonal but fatherless Boa constrictors" by Warren Booth, Daniel H. Johnson, Sharon Moore, Coby Schal, and Edward L. Vargo.

  • Henry Wu: You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?
    Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.
  • welcome our new immaculate boa overlords (or shall I say overladys?).

  • And it's actually fairly common in the insect world. Worker bees, for example, lay unfertilized eggs (which, as always, give birth to "drones," or male bees, the same as when the queen lays unfertilized eggs). But for bees, this is almost certainly a throwback to millions of years ago, before the current roles were set in stone -- as drones are incapable of fertilizing non-queens, and workers wouldn't be laying if there were any queens in residence. The modern day outcome is A Bad Day, though in years go

  • For what it's worth, immaculate conception isn't unheard of in humans: http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/1979/03001/Pregnancy_in_a_True_Hermaphrodite.14.aspx [lww.com]

  • Last time this sort of thing happened, I remember it didn't end well for the fellow. What was his name?

    Oh well. Good luck, baby snake.

  • by Hojima (1228978)

    Yet more proof of creationism. Just look at the word parthenogenesis. It's got the word genesis right in it!

  • Unless you're not a Biologist
  • Unless you're not a Biologist. Damn /.'s new interface. If it ain't broke then DON'T FIX IT. This is /., NOT FACEBOOK.
  • Whaaaaaaaaat?

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:26PM (#34120798)

    Interesting tidbit: The vast majority of known snake species are capable of swimming. Get a snake washed out to sea, let it drift between islands on flotsam, and with this mutation, a lone female is suddenly capable of being the foundation of a new population in a new ecosystem.

    While not advantageous to individuals, this female-only birth trait would be a powerful force in mass extinction events, as it leads to a diverse set of multiply adaptive groups being formed, each specialized in a different direction for a different ecosystem niche. If a meteor equivalent hits, and all the rules of living change to some degree, you have a greater chance of having some in the right niche to survive.

    The downside is if female-only births become too common, you stand a chance of losing genetic diversity in the smaller groups - so it being in the background like this, only occasionally popping up makes sense for a species that might have gained benefit from it in more ancient life cycles.

    Ryan Fenton

  • If it had feathers they should definitely name it Quetzalcoatl
  • I do not think that word means what you think it means.
  • Many lizards reproduce photogenically as a quick Google or wiki search will show any interested party. Less common in snakes, it is true. Boidae are hardly primitive reptiles, but they are relatively primitive snakes. The news here is that this particular individual appears to be a switch hitter, reproducing both sexually and asexually.
  • Glad this only works with reptiles. Otherwise imagine the masses of children from asexual lonely /. users browsing pr0n. On second thought, don't.
  • If anyone's thinking about cloning any dinosaurs, may this be a warning.

  • As the story's tag notes, the Immaculate conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus. Next time, samzenpus, aim for the slightly higher hanging fruit when going for the cheap pun.

  • The Immaculate Conception was the conception of _Mary_ conception so that she would not be burdened by Original Sin, leaving her a suitable vessel for her to carry The Christ Child. It's "Mary _of_ the Immaculate Conception, or _who_ _was_ immaculately conceived.

    That isn't even my mythos, but it always amazes me how many people don't have the first clue about the facts of their own. Wasn't there a post here recently that said the people who know the least about faith are the faithful, or maybe it was that

  • Many lizards reproduce photogenically. A quick Google or wiki search will show any interested party many examples. Snakes are not primitive reptiles as the story says, but boas are relatively primitive snakes. The story here is that this individual appears to be a switch hitter, reproducing both sexually and asexually.
  • Doesn't this just prove that not only did Jesus exist as the Only Way (tm), but that he was immaculately conceived as well, from some type of half-woman-half-reptile asexually-reproducing demigod?
  • So we finally know the truth: Jesus was an asexually-reproduced reptile man of some kind, with genetically-imbued magical powers derived from his innate chromosomal oddity.
  • Although science may gasp at immaculate conception in a snake Christians have it from an authoritative source that Virgin births in human females has happened at least once.

  • Fine Jeff you were right. But I still refuse to believe your next claim about hacking alien computer systems with a Macintosh.
  • Is that a technical term?
  • Through advanced simulations we have found what this baby will look like in 5 years [photobucket.com]
  • 1) virgin birth != immaculate conception
    2) why the completely unnecessary religious reference? It looks like yet another attempt to insert flamebait in the summary.

  • Immaculate Conception was Mary, not Jesus

  • The dogma of the Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the Virgin Birth of Christ. The Immaculate Conception was the conception of Mary without the taint of Original Sin.

  • Mary was a snake! It's obvious!

  • 1) immaculate conception != virgin birth
    2) why have an unnecessary and irrelevant religious reference at all? It looks like an attempt to put flamebait in the summary (again).

  • This is quite amazing.

    Essentially if the female is unable to find any mate in this year's mating season, it still have the option to reproduce regardless. There is a penalty of having exactly the same genetic code, but I guess it is a much better option than dying without passing any genes at all.

    At the same time if the male is available, she can make use of all the advantages of extra genotype permutations that comes with sexual reproduction. It really is a win-win!

    This raises the question though: Since it

  • The article says that the snake gave birth to a litter of all female snakes, only with a peculiar chromosomal makeup -- WW instead of ZW (female) or ZZ (male).

    What I wonder is what the significance of WW is versus ZW, since YY in human terms isn't viable.

    I also have to wonder what good this is in nature if all such snakes can produce are female offspring. On at least the surface -- unless asexual reproduction is common -- this be a seemingly not-so-useful adaptation in terms of survival.
  • Wasn't this part of the premise of Jurassic Park? Nature finds a way.

  • In Catholic Theology, the Immaculate Conception doesn't refer to the Virgin Birth of Jesus, but to the conception of Mary without original sin.

    I guess it's possible that these baby boa constrictors are especially sinless, but you probably won't be able to decide on that issue by reading Biology Letters.

  • I notice that this article is slowly working it's way down the homepage without even a First Post - perhaps all you men feel slightly inadequate now there's proof that yes, we women can do without you! Cue Anonymous Coward's relentless troll-biting and the silent army of female-hating Mods! GO!
  • I seem to recall reading about this many years ago. Not seeing anything on the web older than a few days though. As I recall it only happens under certain circumstances relating to the age of the snake and specific environmental factors including availability (or lack?) of food, temperature, humidity(?) etc.
          Anybody else hear this before?

  • I know no one actually cares, but the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Virgin Mary, which was accomplished through the usual means, but was free of Original Sin. It is not the virgin birth of Jesus.
  • Immaculate Conception is a whole 'nother thing than parthenogenesis. Has everything to do with (not having) Original Sin, and nothing to do with the messiness of sex leading to conception.

  • Praise be to Boa Jesus!

  • The boa then proceeded to test the fences, looking for weak spots.
  • First Post! Wait a minute..... I think something is wrong.....
  • Chaos theory at work, ladies and gents. You were warned.

  • This is why I love science as much as I do: if not for science, we wouldn't have learned that real virgin birth happens in serpents.

  • Wow. I've never seen a story go dead like this on Slashdot.

    Server problems, or just a boring story?

    Surely somebody can come up with something witty and biblically snide. Snakes? Immaculate conceptions? I mean, come on!

    I for one find the idea of snakes creepy, and self-replicating snakes even creepier. Brr.

    Reptiles suck.


  • and jesus was the son of the devil?
  • Virgin birth of a serpent. That's gotta count for something.
  • That's virgin birth, not immaculate conception. Immaculate conception is what the story tells how Mary was born: no original sin. I'm not even Christian and this is clear to me.

  • I believe the term you're looking for (and finally spit out in the last sentence) was "virgin birth." Immaculate conception is something else entirely. Specifically, it's the uniquely Catholic doctrine, developed as part of the cult of the Virgin Mary over the past 500 years (finalized only about 100 years ago), that Mary was conceived without sin. God put a kind of "sin shield" around the egg as it was being fertilized apparently, and so she was born without the taint of the original sin (i.e., "immacul

  • If parthenogenesis is occurring, it's hardly conception, is it?
  • This may sound like a grammar nit, but I found it really distracting to read "commoner" in the summary. Although "commoner" can technically be used as an adjective, it is strongly discouraged due to the potential for confusion with the noun "commoner" which in some sentence constructions can function as an adjective with a somewhat different meaning. For example:

    "The commoner dress of the era was rags."

    This can be read in two ways:

    • The more common dress of the era (compared to something described previous
  • Daphne dear, I think we should do an inventory of the terrarium.

  • Raptor Jesus will return!

  • Virgin birth != immaculate conception

    Virgin birth = conceived without sex

    immaculate conception - conceived (by sex!) without the taint of original sin

    According to traditional (Catholic) Christian beliefs, Christ was born of a virgin, and MARY (not Christ) was born without the taint of original sin ... quite a few years earlier.

    So the two terms refer to two totally distinct events: the immaculate conception occurred a generation before the virgin birth.

  • Had to say it... after all if Jesus was immaculately conceived, maybe Mary was actually a boa constrictor!
  • So, this is proof that Mary was actually a Boa Constrictor?

    Oh, and FP, I think.

    • by Doctor O (549663)

      LOL. Way to go, Slashdot. :-) I loaded the article, it showed 0 replies at -1, replied immediately, and there they are, 250+ comments.

      Either Slashcode sucks big hairy donkey balls, or 250+ motherfuckers just jumped in to destroy my first fp try in about ten years. I'll go with the motherfucker theory because Perl code can never, ever fail.

  • Didn't they watch Jurassic park?
  • Whilst both absurd concepts, they are not the same thing. The immaculate conception was something invented by the catholic church to plug a loophole in the story about a mere human giving birth to a god.
  • Immaculate conception is not the same concept as virgin birth. If the original sin of Adam and Eve have tainted all births since Genesis, consider what the serpent's offspring have had to deal with.

    To the religious minded it may be even more inconceivable that a snake be born without sin than without a father.

  • Interesting implications if it turns out to be possible in humans too!

  • Another child left behind.
  • "Commoner" is somebody not of the gentry.

    OTOH, cool story, half-clones. Almost like an egg cell divided and then recombined somehow.

  • ... This is absolutely fascinating. However, I suppose I might as well be the person to point out that while this is a virgin birth, it's not an "immaculate conception" [wikipedia.org] since that apparently has do with a Catholic doctrine regarding Mary being born free of original sin.

    We now return you to your discussion of snake genetics.

  • I know the fine article mention virgin birth, by why mix in immaculate conception ? Just name the article "parthenogenesis in boa Constrictor". Why mix in christian myth with biology ?
  • interesting and all, but the headline is nonsense. immaculate conception refers to Jesus' mother being herself born free of original sin.

    The debate about whether Boas have original sin is theological and not biological.

  • The Immaculate Conception [wikipedia.org] refers to the birth of Mary (a child conceived without the taint of original sin). The Virgin Birth [wikipedia.org] refers to the birth of Jesus (a child born to a virgin). They are not at all the same thing. You are approximately the 6,696,844,874th person to get them confused.

    For those wondering about the calculation:
    6,697,254,041 - world population (from Google)
    - 409,166 Catholic priests (source [thaindian.com])
    - 1 (me)

  • Considering what young females of our species tell their moms, virgin birth in humans is not a rare thing either.

  • He told me the Bible was all lizard people

  • The word that should have been used is parthenogenesis, not immaculate conception. The two are NOT the same.

    Immaculate conception is the belief that Mary was protected by God from original sin when she was born, that Mary did not have a sin nature, and was, in fact, sinless.
  • "Female boa constrictors are capable of giving birth asexually" - Shocker indeed. I thought snakes laid eggs, rather than giving birth.
  • Extremely interesting. What the summary doesn't point out is that the boa had in fact mated with multiple males before this virgin birth, so in fact it could have used the traditional method too. I thought animals only did this when they had no access to sperm.

  • Jesus was the snake all along?

  • The son of God was actually born to a snake?

  • Oh, I'm being eaten
    By a boa constrictor,
    A boa constrictor,
    A boa constrictor,
    I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
    And I don't like it--one bit.
    Well, what do you know?
    It's nibblin' my toe.
    Oh, gee,
    It's up to my knee.
    Oh my,
    It's up to my thigh.
    Oh, fiddle,
    It's up to my middle.
    Oh, heck,
    It's up to my neck.
    Oh, dread,
    It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

    Shel Silverstein

  • commoner (Score:3, Funny)

    by nmg196 (184961) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:46AM (#34122226)

    "Commoner"?! - You mean "more common". I guess you'll tell me that 'commoner' sounds betterer....

  • I'm trying to understand what in TFA means that the snake was born without original sin. It's been a while since I read the Bible, but I seem to remember somewhere near the start that the snake was cast out of the garden of eden for being a bit of a git and had its legs removed. A snake without original sin would therefore have legs.

    Can we just say asexual reproduction when we mean asexual reproduction, and leave misquoting the Bible to Christians please?

  • I guess this explains why there are so many mothafuckin' snakes on this mothafuckin' plane.

Another megabytes the dust.