Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

For the second time in two years, a captive snake in southeast Missouri has given birth without any interaction with a member of the opposite sex.

Officials at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center say a female yellow-bellied water snake reproduced on her own in 2014 and again this summer. The snake has been living in captivity, without a male companion, for nearly eight years. An intern who cares for the snake found the freshly laid membranes in July.

This year’s offspring didn’t survive, but the two born last summer are on display at the nature center, about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

Conservation Department herpetologist Jeff Briggler said virgin births are rare but can occur in some species through a process called parthenogenesis. It occurs in some insects, fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles, including some snakes, but not mammals.

Parthenogenesis is a type of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs, meaning there is no genetic contribution by a male. It’s caused when cells known as polar bodies, which are produced with an animal’s egg and usually die, behave like sperm and fuse with the egg, triggering cell division.

The conservation department said there are no other documented cases of parthenogenesis by a yellow-bellied water snake. Like other water snakes, this species gives birth to live young rather than eggs that hatch.

Robert Powell, a biology professor and snake expert at Avila University in Kansas City, said the Brahminy blind snake — a small burrowing animal native to southeast Asia commonly known as the flowerpot snake — has long been the only known snake that routinely reproduces without a male’s contribution.

In the Missouri case, it’s possible — but unlikely — that momma snake simply stored sperm from her time in the wild. But Michelle Randecker, a naturalist at the center, said eight years is too long. Powell agreed, saying a female snake usually can’t store sperm for longer than a year, although there are accounts of successful storage as long as three years.

“Long-term storage is unusual. When you run into situations like this, you always wonder, ‘Is that a possibility?'” he said. “If nothing else, it’s an interesting phenomena. Whether this is long-term storage or parthenogenesis, it’s cool. Just another sign that nature works in mysterious ways.”

A.J. Hendershott, outreach and education regional supervisor for the conservation department, said there was some pride in having the first snake of its species reproduce through parthenogenesis.

“This is the way you make discoveries when you keep things in captivity,” Hendershott said. “You learn things about what they’re capable of.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:e854d0d586f746f68f6cb19c0ace6ab8

Earlier this month, in Kansas City, Missouri, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department was out looking for people. And when they spotted a subject, they went after them, in a sting operation the likes of which this country has never seen.

What made this operation especially unusual was the man behind it: a fellow in a red hat — known to these men only as “Secret Santa.”

Every year this anonymous, wealthy businessman gives out about a hundred thousand dollars worth of hundred dollar bills to random strangers. But this year, instead of doing it all himself, he deputized these deputies to give away much of it.

“Let’s start with a thousand,” Secret Santa said as he gave the deputies the money.

And so, armed to the teeth with Benjamins, the officers went out to do Santa’s bidding. They specifically went after people they thought would appreciate it most. Cars driving while dented — or out on Bondo — were likely targets.

“Merry Christmas,” a deputy said while handing money to a driver.

“You’re kidding. Oh my God, no,” answered the driver in disbelief.

Most people weren’t just blown away — most people were moved to tears. Their reactions were a combination of really needing the money and being caught off guard.

We saw Jessica Rodriguez, a mother of three, get pulled over. While the deputy walked to her car, Rodriguez talked to someone on her cell phone to tell them she’d been pulled over for “no cause.”

“How you doing, m’am?” the deputy asked her.

“I’m good until you pulled me over,” she answered.

“Okay, well, on behalf of Secret Santa, he wants you to have this, OK?” the deputy said as he handed her money.

Rodriguez told the deputy he saved her Christmas.
“I wasn’t going to be able to get my kids anything,” she told him.

“Well, I hope you may be able to get your kids something with it,” he said.

As always, creating moments like that is the main mission here. But this year “Secret Santa” also had a secret agenda.

“What do you want the officers to get out of this?” I asked him.

“Joy,” he answered. “You know, as tough as they are they have hearts that are bigger than the world.”

Let’s face it, it hasn’t been a good year for law enforcement — but for the vast majority of decent officers who will never make headlines — Secret Santa offered this gift.

A chance to be bearer of good news for a change, a chance to really help the homeless, to thank the law-abiders, to see hands up in celebration and then be assaulted in the best possible way.

There were a lot of hugs. Our body cameras took a real beating, but it was worth it — just to see people trust again and to see cops surrender.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sheriffs-deputies-kindness-brings-drivers-to-tears/