Scientists have engineered “virgin birth” in feminine fruit flies after pinpointing its genetic trigger.
Like most animals, fruit fries reproduce sexually – the place the egg is fertilised by sperm.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge recognized the genes that have been switched on – or off – when females reproduced with out males.
The group then altered genes in one other feminine fruit fly species, which have been capable of produce offspring with out fathers.
Dr Alexis Sperling, a researcher on the University of Cambridge, mentioned: “We’re the first to show that you can engineer virgin births to happen in an animal – it was very exciting to see a virgin fly produce an embryo able to develop to adulthood, and then repeat the process.”
Also referred to as facultative parthenogenesis, virgin delivery has been documented in species of birds, fish, lizards and snakes, and extra not too long ago in crocodiles.
It is the method by which an egg develops into an embryo with out fertilisation by sperm.
The offspring of virgin births will not be precise clones of their mom however are genetically very related. They are additionally at all times feminine.
It is believed that virgin births is usually a survival technique for species dwelling in isolation and getting ready to extinction.
For the examine, the researchers carried out genome sequencing – a way used to find out the whole genetic make-up of an organism – of two kinds of the fruit fly, Drosophila mercatorum.
The first kind reproduces with males whereas the second produces offspring solely by way of virgin delivery.
Using this technique, the researchers recognized the genes answerable for virgin delivery.
The group then altered the genes of one other fruit fly species – Drosophila melanogaster – with the intention of inducing virgin delivery.
Dr Sperling mentioned the feminine flies “waited to find a male for half their lives – about 40 days – but then gave up and proceeded to have a virgin birth”.
The researchers additionally discovered as much as 2% of the second technology of feminine flies with the flexibility for virgin delivery produced offspring, which solely passed off when no males have been round.
These flies mated and reproduced when male flies have been out there.
Dr Sperling mentioned she hopes to ultimately examine why virgin delivery in bugs could also be turning into extra frequent, notably in pest species.
She mentioned: “If there’s continued selection pressure for virgin births in insect pests, which there seems to be, it will eventually lead to them reproducing only in this way.
“It could become a real problem for agriculture because females produce only females, so their ability to spread doubles.”
The examine, which concerned greater than 220,000 virgin fruit flies and took six years to finish, is revealed within the journal Current Biology.
Dr Hannah Maude, Research Associate, regulatory genomics & metabolic illness, Department of Metabolism, Digestion & Reproduction, Imperial College London, mentioned that for these questioning whether or not the identical would occur for people, the reply is unlikely.
She added: “Our diversity protects us: having two copies of the DNA not only provides a back-up for harmful DNA variants (found in every person) but is necessary for so-called imprinted regions which are specifically active from the maternal or paternal DNA copy.
“Nevertheless, this exciting research furthers our understanding of reproduction in the animal kingdom.”