A genetics research group working in a lab in Kansas, has succeeded in creating a new species of lizard by mating two distinct species of North American Whiptails, both native to New Mexico. The offspring, all females are not only fertile, but can reproduce by laying eggs that don’t need to be fertilized, which means, they actually clone themselves.
Scientists have known for years that some species exist due to interspecies mating, the whiptail lizards have provided proof of that; they’ve been creating new species themselves for at least several hundred thousand years. What’s new is the process being manipulated by another species, us, Homo sapiens. Geneticists have been trying for years to create a new breed of pretty much anything by urging lab “volunteers” of differing species to mate with one another, not exactly earth shaking science when you consider a dog that tries to mate with a human leg. Efforts such as these are, not surprisingly, more often successful than not; the problem is, the offspring are usually infertile, such as mules, or too weak to survive. The trick has been to create a new species that is able to both survive and reproduce, because otherwise, it can’t really be called a new species if it only exists for the duration of one generation.
In a paper published in PNAS, lead researcher Peter Baumann of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, describes how he and his team paired an A.inornata male with an A.exsanguis female resulting in six eggs; all of which hatched, resulting in young lizards that were more similar to the female than the male, save a bit of blue tint on the tails. Each also had four copies of their parental genes (normally there’s just two), three from their mother, the other from their father. They were also all female and all able to reproduce by cloning themselves.