Popular Science

How a female-only line of salamanders 'steals' genes from unsuspecting males

Kleptogenesis gets a little less mysterious in a new study.
salamander

Unisexual salamanders maintain their female lineage by stealing genes from males of other species.

Robert Denton, Ohio State University.

Imagine a lineage made up solely of women. Generation after generation, these females pilfer genes from males—not mating and reproducing in the usual way, but using sex as a means to collect genetic material that they can parcel out to their offspring in seemingly any configuration. A few genes here, a few genes there, generation after generation. It's not some Themyscira-esque fantasy: some lady salamanders have been carrying on this way for millions of years.

The strange reproductive behaviors of the genus Ambystoma aren't new to science. Researchers have known for some time that one lineage of these animals—a line of salamanders that only ever have female offspring—persist by collecting the genetic material of males from several other species in the genus. But in case this is your first

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