The strange ‘virgin births’ of the smalltooth sawfish

Jun 9, 2015

by Deborah Netburn

Desperate times call for desperate measures, which may explain why some critically endangered smalltooth sawfish are reproducing asexually in the wild.

The smalltooth sawfish is a member of the ray family, and under normal circumstances it reproduces sexually like most other vertebrates. However, in a study published in Current Biology, scientists report seven instances of juvenile sawfish that appear to be the product of a virgin birth — no dad involved.

The researchers were able to tell that these fish were produced asexually because routine DNA tests showed there was little to no variability in the genetic material of the seven specimens.

Asexual reproduction in a sexually reproducing species is called facultatitve parthenogenesis. Scientists think it occurs when an unfertilized egg absorbs a genetically identical sister cell called a polar body.


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22 comments on “The strange ‘virgin births’ of the smalltooth sawfish

  • 2
    aroundtown says:

    I hope were not missing the most obvious correlation here. The suggested virgin birth of the Christ child. It has always amazed me that you never hear the most accurate conclusion to that supposed event, that god impregnated Mary against her will (rape) and then tells Joseph to take care of the child, (cheap bastard who refuses to take responsibility for his actions), regarding his up-keep and maintenance. Am I daft for seeing the obvious implications in this supposed celestial copulation event on a human women?



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  • “…be it done unto me according to thy will…”

    Sounds like voluntary assent to sexual assult, submissive sexual abnegation, consensual rape. Close your eyes and think of Zion.



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  • It never happened.

    But, let’s assume it did. Do you have a long list of people that said no to God and turned out alright?

    Johah, no doubt a reasonable man, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish for saying no thanks to God. The Pharaoh who just said no to one of God’s representatives got all the firstborn sons in Egypt murdered, and that was after God had hardened the poor man’s heart. (But, if his heart had not been hardened then how much worse would the death of his son have been! Truly this is the best of all possible worlds!) When the Jews had refused to kill everyone God commanded them to, he punished them as well.

    I’m sure you’re aware of other stories like these. Mary would be too.

    /back to reality

    -whew-



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  • Johah, no doubt a reasonable man, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish for saying no thanks to God.

    And was rescued by God.



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  • Ewan
    Jun 10, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    And was rescued by God.

    After being swallowed by a large fish – in which he spends three days and three nights without being digested or drowning! –
    According to the story!

    .. and I thought I was doing quite well swimming the length of a pool under water without aids!



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  • Ewan: And was rescued by God.

    Presumably, as a Christian, you are very familiar with this story, Ewan. Which means you must be aware that God only came to the rescue after Jonah had stopped “saying no thanks to God” and had completely and utterly surrendered himself to doing what God had told him to do in the first place. … which, in fact, just supports the point Sean_W was making.



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  • eejit
    Jun 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    “…be it done unto me according to thy will…”

    Sounds like voluntary assent to sexual assult, submissive sexual abnegation, consensual rape. Close your eyes and think of Zion.

    Or:- “Close your eyes and think of the Ottoman Caliph, Genghis Kahn! – or the Roman centurion who put down the local Jewish revolt”!



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  • One day, in 2 billion years, I’m sure science will explain how an entity, devoid of any material dimension, can magically produce actual physical spermatozoa and introduce them in a virgin’s womb –let alone the seminal fluid surrounding the whole bunch, always widely appreciated in such circumstances..

    I’m absolutely certain about that.

    LOL.



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  • Ewan. This is from Ghil’ad Zuckermann is Professor of Linguistics and Endangered Languages and Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Fellow at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

    The other one that was brilliant, and on this topic was the ancient Hebrew word for young maiden. It’s meaning was clear. It means a young women and makes no comment on her sexual experience. When the Hebrew bible was translated into ancient Greek, the Greek word used had two meanings in Greek. One was the same as Hebrew, just a young women. The same word can also be used to described a women who has never had sex. So the original Hebrew word in the bible describes a young women, but the double meaning word in the Greek translation has been seized to mean a medical virgin, and hence a miraculous birth.

    Also. Does the RCC have any explanation for why the virgin birth is only mentioned in two out of the final four gospels.* Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38. It is not expressly mentioned elsewhere in the Christian scriptures,

    Given this is one of the cornerstones of the RCC faith, how do they explain this. Serious question. Not having a go.



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  • Asexual reproduction in a sexually reproducing species is called facultatitve parthenogenesis. Scientists think it occurs when an unfertilized egg absorbs a genetically identical sister cell called a polar body.

    Presumably there’s no reason why, theoretically, this shouldn’t be possible in other sexually reproducing species.



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  • Never fails – On this site, even on the most remotely distant from theism or religion, 100% scientific thread, someone sooner or later will mention God or religion. I call it ‘God wins’ law.
    Why ? What are people afraid of – God really exists or God doesn’t exist ?



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  • Of course, in humans, this would mean a X chromosome pairing with another X chromosome. No chance of an XY pair, so the product of a virgin birth would be female.



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  • Though in some other species, such as birds, it’s the female which has both chromosomes so I guess they could produce male or female offspring.

    It’s interesting that, for many species, this is a rare phenomenon which tends to happen only when communities are under some sort of significant stress. That would suggest, wouldn’t it, that the strategy isn’t a particularly successful one and has significant evolutionary costs?



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  • …so the product of a virgin birth would be female.

    For communities living through some sort of desperate times, you would probably want lots of female births to help propagate the species, wouldn’t you, so long as there were a few males around? Though I suppose if there were too few males then that would create problems with lack of variation…



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  • There has been no case of parthenogenesis in humans. I see no reason that there was a virgin birth on 0AD.

    Anyway, can you imagine anything so horrible as this so-called mother of God having sex??? Just ask Augustine of Hippo.



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  • Asexual reproduction can occur if there is an error in the production of eggs. In some whiptail lizards in New Mexico, eggs undergo a chromosome doubling during meiosis and produces lizards without being fertilized. The result is development without the presence of sperm and essentially cloning of the females. The disadvantage is that there is little variability in the all female species and thus greatly reduces the ability of the species to adapt to environmental changes. See:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_grassland_whiptail_lizard

    As mentioned above, there is no evidence of parthenogenesis in humans…yet (unless “midichlorians” were involved).



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