Parthenogenesis is a phenomenon by which organisms can reproduce asexually, that is to say, without fertilization. The word itself, “parthenogenesis” comes from the Greek word for virgin (parthenos) and birth or creation (genesis). (And you may recall the Parthenon in Greece, dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena. I was grilled on that during my comprehensive examination, oddly enough.)
I’m sure if I start talking about plants you will fall asleep, but you may be interested to know that this phenomenon is actually quite common in animals.
Perhaps the most familiar example is ants. Ants reproduce asexually to generate males, all of which are haploid (one set of chromosomes). Females in the colony are all from fertilized eggs and are diploid (both sets of chromosomes).
Once you understand that ants are parthenogenic, you must also realise that eusocial bees and wasps are parthenogenic. For examples, male honeybees, or drones, are haploid.
Then on to less familiar examples. There are the aphids, which reproduce parthenogenically by season, when they wish to rapidly reproduce to colonize a plant. Some birds, including turkeys, can occasionally reproduce parthenogenically, and many reptiles, as it turns out.
Parthenogenic iguanids still perform courting rituals, even though they don’t mate, and both participants are female. My favourite example is the newly discovered Pink Land Iguana (Conolophus marthae), from the Galapagos islands. To be parthenogenic, and also pink, is extremely humourous to me!
So now you might be wondering how this relates to my mother’s week celebration.
Isn’t it obvious?