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parthenogenesis (pärˌthənōjĕnˈəsĭs) [Gr.,=virgin birth], in biology, a form of reproduction in which the ovum develops into a new individual without fertilization. Natural parthenogenesis has been observed in many lower animals (it is characteristic of the rotifers), especially insects, e.g., the aphid. In many social insects, such as the honeybee and the ant, the unfertilized eggs give rise to the male drones and the fertilized eggs to the female workers and queens. Parthenogenesis has also been observed in some snakes, fish, and monitor lizards. The phenomenon is rarer among plants (where it is called parthenocarpy) than among animals. Unusual patterns of heredity can occur in parthenogenetic organisms. For example, offspring produced by some types are identical in all inherited respects to the mother.

The phenomenon of parthenogenesis was discovered in the 18th cent. by Charles Bonnet. In 1900, Jacques Loeb accomplished the first clear case of artificial parthenogenesis when he pricked unfertilized frog eggs with a needle and found that in some cases normal embryonic development ensued. Artificial parthenogenesis has since been achieved in almost all major groups of animals, although it usually results in incomplete and abnormal development. The parthenogenetic marble crayfish, believed to have been bred from the American slough crayfish by German pet traders in the 1990s, has become a pest in Europe and Africa. Numerous mechanical and chemical agents have been used to stimulate unfertilized eggs. In 1936, Gregory Pincus induced parthenogenesis in mammalian (rabbit) eggs by temperature change and chemical agents. No successful experiments with human parthenogenesis have been reported.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the formation of fruits on a plant without fertilization. Such fruits usually are seedless or contain seeds without embryos. Parthenocarpy occurs in many cultivated plants, including grapes, apples, pears, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, mandarins, and bananas. In a number of cases, for example, in seedless grapes, parthenocarpy is a permanent varietal feature. Plants that develop only seedless fruits can reproduce only vegetatively—by layerage, cutting, or budding.

A distinction is made between vegetative, or autonomous, parthenocarpy and stimulated parthenocarpy. In the former, the fruits form without pollination; in the latter, the stigmata must be stimulated by foreign pollen in order to form fruit. Pollen from several varieties of apple is able to stimulate parthenocarpy in a number of pear varieties; potato pollen can stimulate parthenocarpy in tomato, while tomato pollen can stimulate the parthenocarpic formation of fruit in eggplant. At times, parthenocarpy is caused by traumatic, chemical, or thermal stimulation of the stigmata.

Induced parthenocarpy has acquired economic significance in the cultivation of tomatoes and cucumbers. Methods have been developed for spraying plants with weak chemical solutions to stimulate the abundant formation of pulpy, juicy, and tasty seedless fruit.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Production of fruit without fertilization.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
It has been observed that naturally occurring parthenocarpic fruits have higher levels of endogenous gibberellins and auxins (Talon et al., 1990b; 1992) and parthenocarpic fruits can also be produced by exogenous application of plant growth regulators including gibberellins, auxins and cytokinins, which apparently make up for inadequacy of the endogenous hormones (Schwabe and Mills, 1981).
Fruit of the Group C4 genotype (BGB 7; Barras, PI) are unusual in that they have no seeds (low NSS values) and contain only parthenocarpic sections (high NPS values).
Vitelli et al., "Genetically modified parthenocarpic eggplants: improved fruit productivity under both greenhouse and open field cultivation," BMC Biotechnology, vol.
Some are of the Common type (parthenocarpic) that produce figs without caprification (pollination).
Such fruits that develop without fertilization are called parthenocarpic fruits.
Some of the types of cucumber grown throughout the world are American pickling, European pickling, American slicing (fresh market), European greenhouse (parthenocarpic), oriental trellis, middle-eastern (Beit Alpha), and schalgurken.
A subsample of all fruits collected should be tested for seed content, since Eremophila fruits may be parthenocarpic. These seeds should be tested for viability.
Inhibition of auxin transport from the ovary or from the apical shoot induces parthenocarpic fruit-set in tomato mediated by gibberellins.
The banana fruit is either seeded or parthenocarpic. Wild banana trees are diploid (2n=2x=22), seeded, generally cross-pollinated and have a high number of fertile seeds that allow for the dispersion of the plant.