A yellow-bellied water snake from Missouri turned celeb overnight when news media discovered she was the first recorded member of her species to experience "virgin birth."
The snake, nicknamed Yellow Belly, has not had contact with a male snake in eight years. But instead of wallowing with Netflix and Chardonnay like some of us might do, Yellow Belly decided she didn't need a man and became pregnant anyway. 🐍💅
"I went to clean her enclosure and I noticed something out of the ordinary," Jordi Brostoski, a naturalist at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, told BuzzFeed News.
"I thought none of the offspring were fully formed or alive or anything, but when I was cleaning out her bedding two little healthy offspring slithered out."
This first conception happened almost exactly a year ago, Brostoski said, and the miracle children are still alive and well.
Yellow Belly gave birth again on Friday, but unfortunately none of the little blessings survived.
"Virgin births," or parthenogenesis if you want to get technical, are not uncommon in insects or fish, but they are pretty rare in serpents.
Though Brostoski said she experienced a similar situation with an isolated cottonmouth snake at a different zoo, they believe Yellow Belly is the first recorded member of her species to give birth without doing the nasty.
"Not that much is known about parthenogenesis really," Brostoski told BuzzFeed News. "We don't really understand why it occurs or what signals her body to do it, [but] it seems to be adaptive and reproductive survival."
After news of the immaculate conception emerged, Yellow Belly made an appearance at the regional fair to appease her fans. "She's a superstar right now," Brostoski said. "Everyone wants to go see the celebrity."
The miracle babies are back at home, but receiving no less attention than their mama. "We switch them out from the public tank to give them a rest period," Brostoski said.
She said the snakes enjoy their "vacation time" in the larger, isolated tanks. "These snakes get stressed after getting so much attention for so long, just like we do," she added. Celebrity life isn't for everyone, after all.
Brostoksi said she thinks Yellow Belly and her babes have drawn so much attention because people generally have a somewhat morbid fascination with snakes. "People don't really understand snakes, they often see them as dangerous or evil," she said. "And any animal reproducing on its own is startling, I think."