Molecular evidence for the first records of facultative parthenogenesis in elapid snakes.R Soc Open Sci. 2018 Feb; 5(2):171901.RS
Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction by which embryos develop from unfertilized eggs. Parthenogenesis occurs in reptiles; however, it is not yet known to occur in the widespread elapid snakes (Elapidae), which include well-known taxa such as cobras, mambas, taipans and sea snakes. Here, we describe the production of viable parthenogens in two species of Australo-Papuan elapids with divergent reproductive modes: the oviparous coastal/Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus) and the viviparous southern death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus). Analyses of nuclear SNP data excluded paternity for putative fathers and convincingly demonstrated asexual reproduction, thus representing the first evidence of facultative parthenogenesis in Elapidae. Our finding has broad implications for understanding the evolution of reproductive diversity in snakes, as well as managing the conservation of genetic diversity in wild and captive populations.