For the first time, a fish conceived by spontaneous androgenesis was found by scientists.
Androgenesis occurs when males reproduce without females while its counterpart and the more common parthenogenesis occurs when females reproduce without males. Androgenesis was actually first thought to be impossible. But previous study found that ants and clams do it. However, this small Portuguese fish called Squalius alburnoides has been recently discovered to do the mechanism as well.
Such fish is the first animal with vertebrae capable of cloning itself without the need for a female partner. Researchers even found an individual (out of 261) that is a perfect genetic copy of its father.
“Although [androgenesis] is very rare, there are a number of species out there that do this and . . . it is interesting that people have found it now in a vertebrate,” said evolutionary biologist Laura Ross of the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the study.
“In a lot of these cases, these bizarre types of reproduction seem to have arisen by two closely related species hybridizing at some point in their evolutionary history and something going really, really wrong with reproduction,” University of Edinburgh evolutionary biologist Laura Ross told The Scientist. Well, indeed, as S. alburnoides itself is actually the result of a natural hybridization event between two fish.
However, as to the androgenesis, there's still no clear answer on how it specifically occurs. There are a couple of explanations
, though, on what possibly led to such conception. Moreover, this type of reproduction is actually uncommon due to a very good reason- cloning oneself can reduce genetic variation. This is risky as when something changes in the environment, lack of diversity may wipe out the entire species easily.
So, perhaps this isn't the grandest and best evolutionary origin story. But hey, imagine being the split image of your own father (from skin to the tiniest part of your system). Wouldn't that be bizarrely cool?