Scientists have found smalltooth sawfish that have given birth without sex – through cloning themselves.

The sawfish are natives of south-west Florida and typically reproduce sexually. A team of scientists at Stony Brook University in New York have found that due to the threat of endangerment, some female sawfish have asexually reproduced through parthenogenesis. Natural Biological Sciences applicants should consider how the survival instinct in this instance has created atypical behaviour in organisms, and how this might be found in other species.

Parthenogenesis is thought to happen when an egg is fertilised by another cell in that same organism’s body, essentially replacing the need for sexual reproduction using another organism’s genetic material. What causes this to occur, however, is still unknown by scientists – but the trend of endangerment does appear to carry through to other species. Captive birds that result from in-breeding, for example, are likely to carry the same genetic mutation that allows for parthenogenetic reproduction. Human Sciences applicants should consider what this genetic change could mean for the evolution of specialised traits in these species.

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