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First Record of Parthenogenesis in California Condors

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: October 30, 2021 1:00 am

California condor parthenogenesis san diego zoo wildlife alliance

A California condor is pictured at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The process of parthenogenesis has been recorded in this species for the first time.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

A study by conservation scientists from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance was published this week in the Journal of Heredity showing that the California condor is capable of parthenogenesis.


The discovery was made during routine analysis of the biological samples from two California condors which are part of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance's managed breeding program.


Through the analysis it was discovered that the condor chicks were genetically related to the respective female who laid their eggs but surprisingly they were not genetically related to any male.


This is the first recorded instance of asexual reproduction which is also known as parthenogenesis to be confirmed in the California condor.


To add to the complexity of this discovery both the females which produced these chicks were continuously housed with a fertile male. This is the first record of parthenogenesis in any avian species where the female had access to a mate.

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“We believe that our findings represent the first instance of facultative avian parthenogenesis in a wild bird species, where both a male and a female are housed together ,” said Cynthia Steiner, associate director for the conservation research division at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and co-author of the study. “Still, unlike other examples of avian parthenogenesis, these two occurrences are not explained by the absence of a suitable male.

Both females which produced these chicks have bred before they produced these chicks. One welcomed 11 chicks an the other had 23. In the latter case a further two chicks were produced after the parthenogenesis was recorded.

Studying parthenogenesis in birds has been difficult and relied on careful observation. Cases of successful chick development have been recorded in turkeys while unsuccessful eggs were produced through parthenogenesis in finches and domestic pigeons.

Researchers were able to confirm this novel finding by leveraging the large data set collected through the California Condor Recovery Program. Over 30 years, conservations have completed extensive genetic and genomic research in 911 individual condors.

Both of the condors produced through this method have since passed away, one in 2003 aged two and the other in 2017 aged eight.

California condor parthenogenesis san diego zoo wildlife alliance

A California condor is pictured at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The process of parthenogenesis has been recorded in this species for the first time.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Learn more about California Condors here – California Condor Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on their website – San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

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