Scientists have confirmed with genetic evidence that a female eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake can store sperm in her body for at least five years before using it.
The finding follows after a rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), collected in Florida in 2005 and kept in a private collection for five years with no contact with other snakes, unexpectedly gave birth to 19 snakelets last year, New Scientist reported.
To find out how it happened, Warren Booth of North Carolina State University in Raleigh took samples of DNA from the mother and her young.
Booth studies “virgin birth”, in which a female produces young without any contribution from a male.
But in this case the snakelets carried genes that their mother didn’t, which means she must have mated before she was captured and stored the sperm.
Previous studies have hinted that reptiles can store sperm for several years, but this is the first case confirmed by genetics.
Booth suspects other reptiles can store sperm even longer.