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Family News Photo: Kon Karampelas
Study shows endangered species can reproduce without mating

California condors, a critically endangered species, can reproduce without mating, according to a study by conservation scientists at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

During a routine analysis of biological samples from the California condors in the zoo’s breeding programme, the scientists found that two condor chicks had hatched from unfertilised eggs.

“It came as a big surprise, to be honest. We didn’t expect to find any of this,” said Cynthia Steiner, associate director for the alliance’s conservation research division.

Dr Steiner is also the co-author of the study published last week in the Journal of Heredity, the official publication of the American Genetic Association.

Scientists confirmed that each condor chick was genetically related to its mother but neither bird was genetically related to a male.

The two birds represent the first two instances of asexual reproduction, or parthenogenesis, to be confirmed in the California condor species, the zoo said.


Auction of ‘Auschwitz tattoo kit’ suspended by court

An Israeli court suspended the auction of a partial tattoo kit billed as having been used on inmates at the Auschwitz death camp, following outcry from Holocaust survivors.

Obtained from a private collector, the eight fingernail-sized steel dies, each lined with pins to form numerals, would have been pressed into prisoners’ flesh with ink to brand their serial numbers, according to auctioneer Meir Tzolman.

His website had deemed it “the most shocking of Holocaust items”, with a projected sale value of $30,000 to $40,000.

Bidding had reached $3,400 (€3,100), when Tel Aviv District Court granted a request by survivors to order the auction halted pending a 16 November hearing on whether it should proceed.

Mr Tzolman’s website was amended to show the sale had been suspended.

More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz, among a number of camps run by Nazi Germany on occupied Polish soil during World War Two.


Facebook to shut down facial recognition system

Facebook, which last week renamed itself Meta Platforms, has confirmed it is shutting down its facial recognition system which automatically identifies users in photos and videos, citing growing societal concerns about the use of such technology.

“Regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use,” said Jerome Pesenti, vice president of artificial intelligence at Facebook, in a blog post.

“Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.”

The company said more than one-third of Facebook’s daily active users have opted into the face recognition setting on the social media site, and the change will now delete the “facial recognition templates” of more than one billion people.