Deriving from the Greek language, parthenogenesis literally means ‘virgin birth’. In nature this relates to asexual reproduction whereby an embryo is produced without the egg being fertilised.

This phenomenon occurs in some insects, plants, fish, amphibian and reptiles. Some garden pests, including aphids, reproduce parthenogenetically, allowing them to increase their population very rapidly in favourable conditions.

It can also be artificially induced, for example in human stem cell research.

Parthenogenesis was discovered in the 18th century by Swiss naturalist and philosopher Charles Bonnet.