... and other wonders of science.
Thanks to heyfoureyes
for this one:Virgin births by Komodo dragons.
'A clutch of four Komodo dragons that hatched at London Zoo this year were all the result of virgin births, according to research that could help scientific efforts to protect the world’s largest lizards. Genetic tests conducted at the University of Liverpool have proved that all four born to a female called Sungai were conceived by parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction that is known to take place in lizards but never documented in this species before.'PhysOrg has more:
'In an evolutionary twist, Flora the Komodo dragon has managed to become pregnant all on her own without any male help. She is carrying seven baby Komodo dragons. Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon. The reptiles, renowned for their intelligence, are native to Indonesia. They are the world's largest lizards and have no natural predators - making them on par with sharks and lions at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom. The cases of Flora and the London lizard, Sungai, are described in a paper published Thursday in Nature
'The oldest-known animal eggs and embryos, whose first pictures made the cover of Nature in 1998, were so small they looked like bugs – which, it now appears, they may have been. This week, a study in the same prestigious journal presents evidence for reinterpreting the 600 million-year-old fossils from the Precambrian era as giant bacteria.'New light on black holes.
'Nature has again thrown astronomers for a loop. Just when they thought they understood how gamma-ray bursts formed, they have uncovered what appears to be evidence for a new kind of cosmic explosion. These seem to arise when a newly born black hole swallows most of the matter from its doomed parent star. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most powerful explosions in the Universe, signal the formation of a new black hole and come in two flavours, long and short ones. In recent years, international efforts have shown that long gamma-ray bursts are linked with the explosive deaths of massive stars (hypernovae; see e.g. ESO PR 16/03). ... The newly found gamma-ray bursts, however, do not fit the picture. They instead seem to share the properties of both the long and short classes. "Some unknown process must be at play, about which we have presently no clue," said Massimo Della Valle of the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Firenze, Italy, lead author of one of the reports published in this week's issue of the journal Nature. "Either it is a new kind of merger which is able to produce long bursts, or a new kind of stellar explosion in which matter can't escape the black hole."'