The world’s longest snake has given birth to six pythons without the aid of a male in what is believed to be a first for the species.
An 11-year-old female reticulated python, named Thelma, gave birth to six female offspring at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky despite not being homed with any males.
According to National Geographic, new DNA evidence published over the summer in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, revealed that 20-foot-long, 200 pound Thelma, is the sole parent.
Virgin births are nothing new. It’s been seen before it on other reptiles, birds, sharks and more, but this is the first time it has been witnessed in a reticulated python.
“Pythons are an old, ancient species. We’ve seen this in more advanced species like garter snakes,” study leader Warren Booth, a biologist at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma told National Geographic.
Thelma’s virgin birth is still mysterious, however. Booth says it may have to do with geographic isolation from males and captivity.
National Geographic notes that all six of Thelma’s offspring are half-clones. Three look like her while the others have a “super tiger” pattern of yellow with black stripes.