Here’s a list that you’ll want to check twice: a list of non-mythological pseudo-virgin births in the real world. Make sure to read through to the end—the last one’s a shocker.
So you’re a butterfly lizard in the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province of Vietnam. You’re busy preening your little yellow spots and ducking the local villagers who want to eat you. You don’t have time for frivolities like mating, so you said, “Screw you guys, I’m evolving.”
And thus it was spoken.
The Leiolepis ngovantrii are one of the only known land vertebrates that reproduce without having sex through a cloning process called parthenogenesis. (Insects and invertebrates, who regularly clone themselves, think it’s passé.)
The species is comprised entirely of females; even weirder, it may actually be a hybrid of two other species. This would normally lead to sterility like the mule or the liger, but the butterfly lizards wouldn’t stand for that.
Not to be outdone by their smaller brethren, a Komodo dragon female in an English zoo named Flora made headlines by fertilizing her own eggs as well.
“Komodo dragons seem to be able to switch ways of reproducing to deal with a shortage of suitable boyfriends,” said Dr. Rick Shine, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Well played, lizards.
Like we said above, fish have been on virgin births since the Beginning. But it’s always impressive when, say, a female shark housed alone in a tank for seven years manages to give birth to two healthy, toothy baby sharks (in egg form first, of course).
“Parthenogenesis has been documented in many reptiles,” said Doug Sweet, the attending zookeeper. “But any way you look at it, this is strange.”
The Boy with All-Girl Blood
In 1995, a medical report in the journal of Nature Genetics explained the fascinating story of a baby boy who was brought to the doctors after his mother noticed that his head wasn’t developing normally.
After a blood analysis, the doctors found that while the child was anatomically male, all his blood cells were genetically female—as in, they only consisted of his mother’s genetics.
Other parts of him—like the cells in his urine—were genetically normal, but over half of his body was completely without his father’s DNA.
Nobody knows for sure how this happened. The possible explanation was that immediately after being fertilized, one of his mother’s eggs had fused with a neighboring unfertilized egg that was dividing parthogenetically.
Still, pretty strange stuff.
The Miraculous Conception
This one’s insane no matter how you look at it—the bottom line is the possibility of oral conception. We’ll let the original report say the rest. It’s long, but trust me, it’s worth the read.
The patient was a 15-year-old girl employed in a local bar. She was admitted to hospital after a knife fight involving her, a former lover and a new boyfriend. Who stabbed whom was not quite clear, but all three participants in the small war were admitted with knife injuries.
The girl had some minor lacerations of the left hand and a single stab wound in the upper abdomen. Under general anaesthesia, laparotomy was performed through an upper midline abdominal incision to reveal two holes in the stomach. These two wounds had resulted from the single stab wound through the abdominal wall. The two defects were repaired in two layers. The stomach was noted empty at the time of surgery and no gastric contents were seen in the abdomen. Nevertheless, the abdominal cavity was lavaged with normal saline before closure. The condition of the patient improved rapidly following routine postoperative care and she was discharged home after 10 days.
Precisely 278 days later, the patient was admitted again to hospital with acute, intermittent abdominal pain. Abdominal examination revealed a term pregnancy with a cephalic fetal presentation. The uterus was contracting regularly and the fetal heart was heard. Inspection of the vulva showed no vagina, only a shallow skin dimple was present below the external urethral meatus and between the labia minora. An emergency lower segment caesarean section was performed under spinal anaesthesia and a live male infant weighing 2800 g was born.
… While closing the abdominal wall, curiosity could not be contained any longer and the patient was interviewed with the help of a sympathetic nursing sister. The whole story did not become completely clear during that day but, with some subsequent inquiries, the whole saga emerged.
The patient was well aware of the fact that she had no vagina and she had started oral experiments after disappointing attempts at conventional intercourse. Just before she was stabbed in the abdomen she had practiced fellatio with her new boyfriend and was caught in the act by her former lover. The fight with knives ensued. She had never had a period and there was no trace of lochia after the caesarean section. She had been worried about the increase in her abdominal size but could not believe she was pregnant, although it had crossed her mind more often as her girth increased and as people around her suggested that she was pregnant. She did recall several episodes of lower abdominal pain during the previous year. The young mother, her family, and the likely father adapted themselves rapidly to the new situation and some cattle changed hands to prove that there were no hard feelings.
Comments: A plausible explanation for this pregnancy is that spermatozoa gained access to the reproductive organs via the injured gastrointestinal tract. It is known that spermatozoa do not survive long in an environment with a low pH (Jeffcoate1975), but it is also known that saliva has a high pH and that a starved person does not produce acid under normal circumstances (Bernards & Bouman 1976). It is likely that the patient became pregnant with her first or nearly first ovulation otherwise one would expect that inspissated blood in the uterus and salpinges would have made fertilization difficult. The fact that the son resembled the father excludes an even more miraculous conception.