Reproduction and the mechanism of meiotic restitution in the parthenogenetic lizard Cnemidophorus uniparens


  • Orlando Cuellar

    1. Life Science Research Laboratory, The University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80302
    Current affiliation:
    1. Museum of Zoology, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
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Gross details of the reproductive cycle and the cytology of oogenesis were studied in 155 egg clutches produced by 69 captive individuals of the triploid parthenogenetic lizard Cnemidophorus uniparens. The mean clutch cycle lasted 23 days. The mean number of ova per clutch was 3.3, and the mean number of oocytes per right and left ovaries was 1.65 and 1.70, respectively. Comparison of the size of the oocytes at ovulation (9–10 mm) with the estimated mean duration of vitellogenesis (8.8 days) gave an average of approximately 1 mm yolk deposition per day. The mean time for the retention of eggs in the oviducts was 9.3 days. The germinal disc of the oocyte consists of a series of layers formed by the arrangement of various cytoplasmic and yolk particles in the polar region. In a mature oocyte the germinal vesicle is located immediately below the vitelline membrane and lies at the center of the germinal disc. The germinal vesicle is characterized by a dense disc-like cluster of diplotene chromosomes. Diplonema extends until near ovulation when the oocytes have attained a size of about 9 mm. Diakinesis and metaphase I occur rapidly and immediately prior to ovulation. Counts of approximately as many bivalents as there are somatic chromosomes were obtained from oocytes at diakinesis and metaphase I.

The second division occurs almost immediately before or at the precise moment of ovulation. The chromosomes of the first polar body consist of dyads, of which there are as many as the triploid number of 69. A metaphase II plate obtained in polar view also revealed dyad chromosomes, of which there were approximately as many as the triploid somatic number. The second telophase is normal as evidenced by formation of the second polar body. Chromosomes from the opposing telophase plates show a monad structure. The presence of as many bivalents in the first division as the triploid somatic number of 69 indicates that the 3N condition of C. uniparens was doubled prior to meiosis. This is further supported by the occurrence of two maturation divisions each giving rise to a polar body, by the dyad structure of the chromosomes in the first polar body and the second metaphase, and by the presence of monochromosomes at telophase II. Thus, parthenogenesis in these lizards is of the meiotic type. The somatic number of chromosomes is doubled early in oogenesis presumably by a premeiotic endoduplication, and the 3N level is restored by two subsequent maturation divisions.