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In early 2018, a female alligator laid eggs at a Costa Rica zoo. While  not  unusual in general, this particular circumstance was rather unusual considering this alligator had lived alone for 16 years. Alligators can lay infertile eggs, but the eggs in this group appeared normal. There was also one egg that matured in the incubator. But this didn't create new life in the Jurassic Park sense, it created a stillborn alligator. The natural question  is why did this happen in the first place? A team of researchers provides an explanation in a newly published article in the  journal Biology Letters. They report that the crocodile babies were parthenogenetic, a form of asexual reproduction in which the embryo develops from an unfertilised egg. Essentially, the baby was the result of a "virgin birth" and contained only  genetic material from the mother. It's the first time it's been found in a crocodile.

Parthenogenesis is not uncommon in the animal kingdom. Birds are known to reproduce this way, as are lizards, snakes, and  elasmobranch fish (sharks, rays, sawfish, etc.). Alligators have also joined this list. This discovery and analysis revealed that dinosaurs and pterosaurs also very likely produced offspring through parthenogenesis. They all belong to a group of vertebrates called archosaurs. "The earliest members of this group are crocodiles, and the youngest are birds," explains lead author Warren Booth. "In between there are  pterosaurs and dinosaurs." 

Scientific research researchers continue to study crocodiles. Studying these creatures should provide new insights into evolution. 

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