Charlie is a female lizard that lives at Tennessee’s Chattanooga zoo. She was recently given a DNA test to prove that three babies born to her were actually, biologically, 100% her young. She had given birth to triplets without the help of a male partner.
Zookeepers at the Chattanooga zoo attempted to set Charlie up with a male Komodo Dragon, Kadel, hoping that the two would begin breeding. A blood test showed that Charlie was not interested in Kadel.
Charlie was able to conceive the triplets using a natural form of asexual reproduction, parthenogenesis. The growth and development of embryos took place, despite there being no sperm involved in the fertilization process.
The Chattanooga Zoo shared the interesting news on Instagram about the Komodo Dragon triplets, Onyx, Jasper, and Flint. They arrived in September 2019. That post read:
“Our Komodo Dragon hatchling DNA results are in! *Maury Voice* Kadal, you are NOT the father!
In September 2019, we announced that our female Komodo Dragon, Charlie, had become a first-time mother to three hatchlings. At the time, it was unknown if they were a product of breeding with our male, Kadal, or if parthenogenesis had occurred. DNA results show that the hatchlings were, in fact, reproduced through parthenogenesis!
The six-month-old brothers named Onyx, Jasper, and Flint, are growing rapidly and doing very well! Although Kadal and Charlie were placed together in hopes of breeding, our staff is very excited to witness this monumental work of nature and be part of such an important conservation program.”
Komodo dragons often live in isolation in the wild and if they are approached, they can become violent. Parthenogenesis is common among Komodo dragons.
Onyx, Jasper, and Flint are relatively small now but they may grow to be up to 10 feet long and weigh 330 pounds each.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Komodo dragons are listed as “vulnerable,” which means they have a high risk of going extinct in the wild. That is why breeding programs, such as what is available at the Chattanooga Zoo, are so important.