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Why Don’t Female Whiptail Lizards Need Males to Reproduce?

Being a whiptail lizard might sound like a hard life, what with the harsh desert climate and the lack of anything to do except find food and avoid being eaten by predators. But these female lizards have one big advantage: they don't need males in order to procreate. Through a process known as parthenogenesis, certain species of whiptail lizards -- such as the New Mexico whiptail -- are able to reproduce without the need for male fertilization. And, remarkably, before the lizards reproduce, they double the number of chromosomes in their reproductives cells, allowing the females to produce genetically diverse offspring on their own, rather than simply cloning themselves. While researchers are still trying to understand how whiptail lizards achieve this chromosomal doubling, they know that there are clear advantages, such as being able to populate an isolated area with only one member of a species.

A closer look at lizards:

  • Lizards are often seen with their tongues going in and out; that's because they smell with their tongues.
  • The largest lizard is the Komodo dragon; the biggest on record weighed 366 pounds (166 kg) and reached 10.3 feet (3.13 m) in length.
  • There are more than 5,000 species of lizards on Earth, but only the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) and the beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum) are considered venomous.
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