A cardinal that’s both male and female

A gynandromorph (gyne = female; andro = male) is an organism that has both male and female characteristics. Mainly seen among butterflies, moths, and insects, cases of gynandromorphism have also been reported in crustaceans (lobsters and crabs) and even in birds.

A gynandromorph can have bilateral asymmetry, one side female and one side male, or they can be mosaic, a case in which the two sexes aren’t defined as clearly. Bilateral gynandromorphy arises very early in development, typically when the organism has between 8 and 64 cells.

The cause of this phenomenon is typically, but not always, an event in mitosis during early development. While the organism is only a few cells large, one of the dividing cells does not split its sex chromosomes typically. This leads to one of the two cells having sex chromosomes that cause male development and the other cell having chromosomes that cause female development, resulting in an organism with female and male tissues.

A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both male and female reproductive organs. It is not clear if a gynandromorph is also a hermaphrodite.

Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are a North American bird. Male cardinals are a bright, vivid red, while the females are a more muted grayish-brown color, interspersed with red.

Brian Peer spotted a very rare gynandromorph cardinal with male coloring on its left side and female coloring on its right.

Photos by Brian Peer

Peer observed the bird for several successive years in Rock Island, IL. He says: “I was able to observe it on several occasions, and noticed that it didn’t associate with other cardinals, nor did I hear it produce any vocalizations.” [Source: Care2]

I feel sorry for this poor little cardinal….

H/t FOTM’s beloved Joseph.

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8 years ago

What concerns me is that this bird may be one in ten million, and is most likely unable to reproduce, so when it dies it may be the last of its kind for a long time. When humans play God via genetic modification, we don’t really know what the ultimate consequences will be. It’s a roll of the cosmic dice, so to speak, and if we don’t pay for the consequences, others will at a later time. As a follow-up to this posting I’m sending Eo a photograph of severely distorted lab rat testes due to their consumption of genetically… Read more »