Causes and consequences of the evolution of reproductive mode in Caenorhabditis nematodes

Trends Genet. 2012 May;28(5):213-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2012.02.007. Epub 2012 Apr 3.


Reproduction is directly connected to the suite of developmental and physiological mechanisms that enable it, but how it occurs also has consequences for the genetics, ecology and longer term evolutionary potential of a lineage. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, anatomically female XX worms can self-fertilize their eggs. This ability evolved recently and in multiple Caenorhabditis lineages from male-female ancestors, providing a model for examining both the developmental causes and longer term consequences of a novel, convergently evolved reproductive mode. Here, we review recent work that implicates translation control in the evolution of XX spermatogenesis, with different selfing lineages possessing both reproducible and idiosyncratic features. We also discuss the consequences of selfing, which leads to a rapid loss of variation and relaxation of natural and sexual selection on mating-related traits, and may ultimately put selfing lineages at a higher risk of extinction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Nematoda / genetics
  • Nematoda / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology*