Leading article: No such thing as a free lunch

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The Independent Online

A good scientist is never on holiday. Well, he or she is never off-duty at any rate, if Dr Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology is anything to go by. He was in a restaurant in the Mekong Delta when he was served up grilled lizard and salad. He then asked to see a live specimen – and decided it might be a new species unknown to science, even if it was familiar to local chefs.

The enterprising scientist then emailed pictures of the lizard to experts in the United States who jumped on a plane to Ho Chi Minh City from where they phoned the restaurant to place an order. Unfortunately, the restaurateur, so excited by his sudden international celebrity, got drunk and served all the remaining lizards to customers in celebration. When the US scientists arrived, there were none left.

Fortunately, local boys sent out into the forest returned with 60 more of the beasts. And it turned out that they were indeed unknown to herpetology. And, intriguingly, the creatures were all females. It turns out that the species has no males but reproduces by cloning unfertilised egg cells in a process called parthenogenesis – which sounds suspiciously like virgin birth. But that's another story.