Komodo dragon proud mum (and dad) of five

LONDON Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:33am GMT

1 of 3. A baby Komodo dragon is held by a keeper after hatching at Chester Zoo in Chester, January 22, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Flora, a Komodo dragon who has never mated or even mixed with a male, is the proud mother and father of five baby dragons, scientists said on Wednesday.

Both Flora and her babies, which measured 40-45 cm (15-18 inches) and weighed up to 125 grams (4.4 ounces) when they were hatched at the Chester Zoo are doing fine.

Two fertilised eggs are still in an incubator.

"Flora is oblivious to the excitement she has caused but we are delighted to say she is now a mum and dad," said Kevin Buley a curator at the zoo. "When the first of the babies hatched, we didn't know whether to make her a cup of tea or pass her the cigars..."

Scientists announced in December in the journal Nature that Flora had fertilised the eggs herself, without any male help, in a process culminating in parthenogenesis or virgin birth.

Other lizards do this, but Buley and his team said it was the first time it has been shown that Komodo dragons, the world's largest lizards, can also accomplish it.

The baby dragons, all males, are being cared for in a special area of the zoo and feasting on a diet of crickets and locusts.

"We haven't made a decision on names yet -- as Komodo dragons can live for over 40 years, we want to get the names just right," Buley added.

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