Researchers have discovered one way that asexually reproducing organisms maintain variation in their DNA. Female whiptail lizards can actually double their own chromosomes during meiosis, according to a study published online today in Nature.

A checkered whiptail lizard

Image: Peter Baumann
"It's a great piece of work," said linkurl:Charles Cole,; a herpetologist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York who was not involved in the study. "This study shows us that evolution came up with some really fancy gymnastics here that fifty years ago we never would have guessed these lizards could be doing." Parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction that occurs without the contribution of male genetic material, has been well described in many invertebrates species and a few vertebrates. But since gametes in these species only receive one set of chromosomes, researchers have wondered how offspring maintain genetic diversity, especially in more complex vertebrate...

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