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Sex and the Komodo Dragon


Fiona E. Rawle
Department of Biology
University of Toronto at Mississauga
Marc Dryer
Department of Biology
University of Toronto at Mississauga
Joan Sharp
Department of Biological Sciences
Simon Fraser University


In this clicker case study for a flipped classroom, students familiar with the stages of meiosis work in small groups to determine the predicted genetic makeup of the parthenogenetic offspring of a Komodo dragon, based on four different types of parthenogenesis. Students then learn about the actual genetic makeup of the offspring and determine how meiosis was modified to allow parthenogenesis in this fascinating lizard. The sex of the offspring is explained, based on ZW/ZZ sex determination. A video specifically made for this case prepares students for the in-class activities, which are guided by a PowerPoint presentation. The case also examines how facultative parthogenesis may be adaptive in Komodo dragons and the implications of facultative parthogenesis to conservation of these vulnerable lizards. The case was developed for a general biology class, but could also be used in an introductory course on conservation or cell biology.


  • Describe the sources of variation in daughter cells produced by meiosis.
  • Explain the process of oogenesis, a form of meiosis that produces haploid eggs.
  • Explain how alterations in the events and products of oogenesis may alter the genetic makeup of the resulting daughter cells.
  • Describe the basis of ZW/ZZ sex determination.
  • Explain how facultative parthenogenesis may be adaptive in Komodo dragons.
  • Explain the implications of facultative parthenogenesis to conservation of these lizards.


asexual reproduction; parthenogenesis; meiosis; oogenesis; genetic variation; sex determination; adaptation; conservation; komodo dragon

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Clicker, Discussion, Flipped



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Phases of Meiosis
    This video explains the major phases of meiosis including: interphase, prophase I, metaphase I, anaphase I, telophase I, cytokinesis, interphase II, metaphase II, anaphase II, and telophase II. Also explains how variation is created in the next generation through meiosis and sexual reproduction. Running time: 8:25 min. Created by Paul Anderson. Produced by Bozeman Science.
  • Parthenogenesis
    This video animation on parthenogenesis shows the normal events of meiosis and explains four different types of parthenogenesis in which the events of meiosis are modified to produce offspring that develop from an egg that has not been fertilized by a sperm. Students are asked to predict the sex and genetic makeup of each type of parthenogenetic offspring. Students should be directed to think carefully about the questions posed in this video, but they do not have to bring written answers to class. Their understanding of this material will be probed in the pre- and post-case questions. Running time: 8:45 min. Created by Marc Dryer, Fiona E. Rawle, and Joan C. Sharp for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2016.


Christian Moore

Thanks for this. It is brilliant for consolidating the unit on gametogenesis in Higher Level IB Biology.