A Kean University professor helped prove female crocodiles can have a “virgin birth,” according to a research paper she co-authored earlier this month, university officials said.

Brenna Levine, an assistant professor of biology, wrote the novel software program that used genomic data to prove female crocodiles can reproduce without a mate, in a first for the species, officials said.

“Due to the evolutionary relationship between crocodiles and dinosaurs, our finding makes it very likely that dinosaurs and pterosaurs could reproduce this way as well,” Levine said.

“This is a very important evolutionary finding, and it is also basically the plot of Jurassic Park,” she said, referencing the iconic 1993 Steven Spielberg film.

Levin co-authored the paper, called “Discovery of facultative parthenogenesis in a New World crocodile,” with Warren Booth, an urban entomology professor at Virginia Tech and others on a seven-member team, university officials said.

It was published in the journal Biology Letters.

Levine’s research started with a female crocodile in captivity in Costa Rica. It had been isolated since it was 2 years old, but laid eggs, one of which developed a fully-grown, stillborn embryo. Scientists believed it could be a “parthenogen,” which is born through asexual reproduction.

Researchers sequenced the crocodile mother and embryo’s DNA through tissue samples. Levine “created the software program to analyze genomes, finding there was no evidence a male crocodile had been involved in the reproduction,” officials said in a release.

Facultative parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, has been found in birds, snakes and lizards. Discovering it in crocodiles makes it likely dinosaurs and all reptiles could reproduce that way, Levine said.

Zebra sharks, whiptail lizards, pit vipers and California condors have all had documented cases of parthenogenesis, according to National Geographic.

“These results move us a long way toward understanding how and when reproductive modes evolved,” Levine said of finding it in crocodiles.

Source: NJ.com