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Fri May 26, 2017, 06:27 PM

Male Fish Borrows Egg to Clone Itself

Researchers in Portugal studying a rare type of hybrid fish in the Ocreza River have found an individual that is the exact genomic match to his father. While such androgenesis—the reproduction of a male with no female genetic component—occurs in some non-vertebrates and has been induced in vertebrates artificially, today’s report (May 24) in Royal Society Open Science is the first known description of a vertebrate reproducing this way in the wild.

“I was very surprised,” said Miguel Morgado-Santos, a graduate student at the University of Lisbon in Portugal who co-authored the study. “I thought maybe it was a mistake and we had captured the father.” But, when the researchers examined the animal’s mitochondrial DNA, which can only be inherited from the mother’s egg, they found that it differed from the father’s. “So, it was definitely an androgenetic individual,” he said.

“Although [androgenesis] is very rare, there are a number of species out there that do this and . . . it is interesting that people have found it now in a vertebrate,” said evolutionary biologist Laura Ross of the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study.

While the females of many species, including some vertebrates, are well known to be able to reproduce themselves without any input from a male—a process called parthenogenesis—“for a long time, biologists thought that clonal reproduction by males was impossible as they are not able to have babies,” said Ross. However, there are now known to be a handful of species—certain types of ants and fresh water clams, for example—where the “males basically use a surrogate mum to clone themselves,” she said.


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