Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Old stories, new discoveries

I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember author and title but I recently read an old (1980s) short story about an alternate reality where humans were all female and reproduced parthenogenically, forming 'families' of nearly genetically identical sisters.

(The plot was the creation of males).

On the face of it, this plot is ridiculous *unless* you give humans reptile sex chromosomes. In mammals, females are XX and males are XY. Therefore, an all female race would possess no Y chromosomes. In reptiles, however, females are ZW and males are ZZ...and then you realize that is ridiculous too. Reptiles *can* and *do* parthenogenically produce males. In fact, its a better system. If something killed all human males we'd be screwed.

If something killed all boa constrictor males, the females could switch back to asexual reproduction for a generation.

However, recently a snake was found to have produced, more than once, parthenogenically created WW babies (previously thought not to be viable). And now we've discovered an all female species in Vietnam...on the dinner table. Maybe these are WWs too? Who knows...

All of this, of course, has implications for alternate reproductive strategies. How about an alien sentient race that alternates between sexual and asexual generations like ferns do? Even on this planet, the way we do things isn't the only way.