A giant anteater’s virgin birth has been called solved — and not by the discovery that a sneaky baby daddy male anteater had somehow been slipping into the mother’s enclosure when zoo officials weren’t looking.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, baby anteater Archie was born under mysterious circumstances in April at the LEO Zoological Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. The odd thing was that mother Armani hadn’t had access to a male since August, but the normal gestation period of a giant anteater is only six months.
The story of the anteater’s virgin birth shot around the world, as people wondered what it could all mean.
A local news source, The Greenwich Times, documented the theories about how it could have happened. Founder and director of the LEO center Marcella Leone said that it was probably a case of delayed implantation.
In other words, the male fertilized the egg in the usual way, but Armani wasn’t ready to give birth to another baby. The reason he was removed in the first place is that she had just delivered a baby female, and male anteaters sometimes eat their young.
So the mother, busy with her firstborn, somehow delayed the implantation of the fertilized egg until she was ready. That’s a natural process called embryonic diapause, which humans can’t perform but which around 100 other mammal species can.
But other experts expressed doubt. Species survival plan coordinator for North American giant anteaters Stacey Belhumeur said: “My guess is they thought they had him separated. We’ve seen incredible feats of breeding success. We’ve had animals breed through fences.”
Ouch. In other words, she pretty much said that Leone doesn’t know who’s zooming who in her own zoo. I’m not about to take any sides in this one.
However, National Geographic doesn’t put Leone’s theory beyond the realm of possibility, saying, “Although the process has never been previously observed in an anteater, researchers have documented it in armadillos, which are closely related…”
As a result, several sites around the internet are throwing the technical term “embryonic diapause” around and calling it case closed.
I’m not so sure. Apparently, the male and female giant anteater enclosures in Greenwich do share a portion of common fence line. Hmm.
While you’re pondering the question, check out this cute baby giant anteater video:
Would you consider the anteater virgin birth solved?
[Anteater mother and baby photo by Howard Cheng via Wikimedia Commons]