Cute animal stories

At risk of resembling the Metro newspaper (which I like to call The Daily Litter), I’m dedicating this entire post to news from the animal kingdom.

First, good news for homo sapiens who for reasons religious or otherwise find it disagreeable to be closely related to chimpanzees. According to Scientific American recent studies show that human beings and chimpanzees are not as genetically close as previously believed.

The new finding supports the idea that evolution may have given humans new genes with new functions that don’t exist in chimps, something researchers had not recognized until recently. The older value of 1.5 percent is a measure of the difference between equivalent genes in humans and chimps, like a difference in the spelling of the same word in two similar languages. Based on that figure, experts proposed that humans and chimps have essentially the same genes, but differed in when and where the genes turn on and off.

It feels good to be unique.

Other news reveals that human beings are not unique in the miracle of virgin birth. Specifically, a komodo dragon named Flora at the Chester Zoo in England has laid fertile eggs without mating with a male.

When Flora laid the 11 eggs, keepers discovered they contained embryos. Tests carried out by University of Liverpool scientists showed that Flora was both the mother and the father, a system of reproduction known as parthenogenesis.

Parthenogenesis – a term combining the Greek words for virgin and birth – occurs in some inspects, such as bees, as well as a limited number of vertebrates. A few other lizard species can reproduce without a male, but this is one of the very first times it has ever been reported in Komodo dragons.

Merry Christmas, Flora!

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