CNN posted an interesting news item about a female hammerhead shark who fertilized its own egg without sperm from males, according to a joint Northern Ireland-US research published in the Royal Society’s peer-reviewed Biology Letter journal.
The baby was killed within hours of its birth by a stingray in the same tank. Analysis of its DNA found no trace of any chromosomal contribution from a male partner.
Shark experts said this was the first confirmed case in a shark of parthenogenesis, which is derived from Greek and means “virgin birth.”
Asexual reproduction is common in some insect species, rarer in reptiles and fish, and has never been documented in mammals. The list of animals documented as capable of the feat has grown along with the numbers being raised in captivity — but until now, sharks were not considered a likely candidate.
Fascinating. And poor little guy was taken out by The Circle of Life before he even had a chance. Another victim of a single-parent home. Oooooh, Mama tried, mama tried. I wonder if they will campaign for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act? I wonder …
In other science news, the Millennium Seed Bank accepted its billionth seed, from an African bamboo, as it continues its goal of collecting 30,000 plant species 2010. They will present the seeds to Chancellor Gordon Brown in a ceremony Wednesday. Although the goal is a massive undertaking, it represents only 10 percent of the earth’s plant species. The intent is to replant species as they near extinction.
Thank goodness someone had the foresight to do this. Our poor planet is taking a pummeling. The wife and I have talked about ways to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s something that weighs heavily on our minds as we plan our lives as parents. We’re essentially hippies at heart — we recycle, we listen to NPR, we cringe as our neighbors continue to buy larger and larger vehicles that they do not need, at least by my estimation.
Here’s a thought: I have found that environmental stewardship is a hard sell for many first-generation Mexican immigrant families I know. I suspect that it’s because that they don’t necessarily want to be gross polluters, it’s simply a matter of wanting to display the hard-earned fruits of their labor. The need to show the world that you’ve somehow “made it,” especially when visiting relatives back in Mexico, is a powerful impulse.
While working at an auto insurance agency, customers came to my desk after working a day in the fields. All day long I added Escalades, Yukons, Denalis and other higher end, late-model sport-utility vehicles, pickups and cars. I wondered, with amazement, how they could afford these vehicles on modest farm worker wages, especially in Monterey County. Not to pass judgment on them. What they do with their money after a day picking row crops in the hot sun is entirely their prerogative. I just believe we all need to start thinking critically about how we are going to reduce our consumption.