Parthenogenetic species of whiptail lizards in the genus Aspidoscelis constitute a striking example of speciation by hybridization, in which first-generation hybrids instantly attain reproductive isolation and procreate as clonal all-female lineages. Production of eggs containing a full complement of chromosomes in the absence of fertilization involves genome duplication prior to the meiotic divisions. In these pseudo-tetraploid oocytes, pairing and recombination occur exclusively between identical chromosomes instead of homologs; a deviation from the normal meiotic program that maintains heterozygosity. Whether pseudo-tetraploid cells arise early in germ cell development or just prior to meiosis has remained unclear. We now show that in the obligate parthenogenetic species A. neomexicana the vast majority of oocytes enter meiosis as diploid cells. Telomere bouquet formation is normal, but synapsis fails and oocytes accumulate in large numbers at the pairing stage. Pseudo-tetraploid cells are exceedingly rare in early meiotic prophase, but they are the only cells that progress into diplotene. Despite the widespread failure to increase ploidy prior to entering meiosis, the fecundity of parthenogenetic A. neomexicana is similar to that of A. inornata, one of its bisexual ancestors.
- Received June 17, 2016.
- Accepted October 12, 2016.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.