Chattanooga Zoo Announces Komodo Dragon Hatchling DNA Results

  • Friday, February 28, 2020

In September 2019, the Chattanooga Zoo announced the first successful Komodo dragon hatchlings by first-time mother, Charlie, through the recommendations of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan. At that time, it was unknown if the offspring were a product of breeding between Charlie and the zoo’s resident male, Kadal, or if parthenogenesis had occurred.  
 
Parthenogenesis is a type of reproduction where the female produces offspring without male fertilization. In the wild, Komodo dragons mainly live isolated and often become violent when approached, which has allowed these animals to evolve to reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically. Female Komodo dragons carry the sex chromosomes of WZ with males carrying ZZ. When parthenogenesis occurs, the mother can only create WW or ZZ eggs. Eggs with the sex chromosomes of WW are not viable, leaving only ZZ eggs to produce all male hatchlings. Parthenogenesis is considered a very rare phenomenon, with the first case of a successful parthenogenesis reproduction in Komodo dragons recorded in 2006. 
 
DNA results show that the three Komodo dragon hatchlings born at the Chattanooga Zoo on Aug. 4, 2019, were reproduced through parthenogenesis. The six-month-old brothers, named Onyx, Jasper, and Flint, are growing rapidly and doing very well. Although Kadal and Charlie were placed together in hopes of breeding, the Chattanooga Zoo staff is very excited to witness this monumental work of nature and be part of such an important conservation program.  

“Our staff is thrilled to play a part and to be able to witness this truly miraculous occurrence. As the Komodo dragon is listed as vulnerable to extinction, these hatchlings are even more special and represent a bright future for their species,” says Dardenelle Long, Chattanooga Zoo CEO and president.  
 
This weekend only, Saturday through Sunday, the Chattanooga Zoo’s Komodo dragon hatchlings will be viewable by the public in the Forests of the World habitat building. The Chattanooga Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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