parthenogenesis

Doug Eernisse Doug_Ee at um.cc.umich.edu
Fri Oct 15 18:01:58 EST 1993


In article <1993Oct14.214739.11584 at alw.nih.gov> 
Jim Owens, jow at helix.nih.gov writes:
>I think the reason parthenogenesis is noted only in females is
>linguistic.  Parthenogenesis was by definition reserved for females when
>I was a lad.  In males it was called androgenesis.  My memory is a bit
>dim on this because the article I am recalling was read about 35 years
>ago.  I cannot recall if "androgenesis" was just a linguistic alternative
>to parthenogenesis.
>
>Parthenogenesis is derived from the Greek for "virgin birth."  I never
>took classical Greek and do not have access to a Greek grammer text, but
>my guess is that parthenos is feminine.  The Parthenon was the temple
>devoted to the virgin-goddess Athena.
>
>A quick check with a very large Webster's in a lab downstairs has
>confirmed my idea about parthenos being a word that applied to maidens. 
>However, androgenesis is defined as "male parthenogenesis" and is
>contrasted with gynogenesis as the female form of parthenogenesis.  You
>learn something everyday!

This reminds me of an old paper on parthenogenesis by W. Hamilton.
I would love it if someone has a citation as I no longer have a
copy. As I remember, he traced parthenos to its meaning in classical
Greek, but he introduced the topic by considering the New Testament's 
original text for the Mary, mother of Jesus. As everyone knows, she was a
"virgin," as stated in the King James Version. Hamilton demonstrated 
that this was merely a trivial mistranslation of the early A.D. Latin word 
for "maiden" meaning in general a "young maiden" into "virgin" in the
sense that we normally use the term. I can't remember the details
of how the Romans may have modified the Greeks' "parthenos" but
my dictionary lists parthenos as "New Latin : Greek" and I'm pretty
sure this was why Hamilton was bringing it up in the context of
parthenogenesis. One of those insights Hamilton slips into his papers...
  
As to whether or not androgenesis occurs in animals, I am unaware of
any examples. There are organisms in which there is no differentiation of
gender, even at the level of gametes, but parthenogenesis generally
includes any situation where the eggs produced by a given individual
do not require fertilization by gametes produced by another individual.
An exception is the case of self-fertilization, which is often, but not
always, considered separately.
 
A case where males produce unreduced "gametes" (without meiosis) is 
haplodiploidy, as is common in rotifers, hymenoptera, and some aphids 
and mites, but the male is merely haploid to start with; he needs an 
egg from a diploid female to achieve syngamy. Haplodiploidy is often 
considered to be a major class of parthenogenesis, also know as
arrhenotoky (or haploid arrhenotoky). It is a "partial mixis" system
where both meiosis and syngamy occur in only one of the sexes 
(hybridogenesis as in Poeciliopsis and Rana esculenta is another
rarer "partial mixis" system). People using the general definition
I gave in the last paragraph are not including arrhenotoky. Instead,
they are talking only about "thelytoky," the other major class of
parthenogenesis. As I mentioned in a previous post, it can be either
ameiotic thelytoky (apomixis) or meiotic thelytoky (automixis).

Doug



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