Genetic segregation and the maintenance of sexual reproduction

Nature. 1989 May 25;339(6222):300-1. doi: 10.1038/339300a0.


Sexual reproduction confronts evolutionary biology with a paradox: other things being equal, an asexual (all-female) population will have twice the reproductive potential of a competing sexual population and therefore should rapidly drive the sexual population to extinction. Thus, the persistence of sexual reproduction in most life forms implies a compensatory advantage to sexual reproduction. Work on this problem has emphasized the evolutionary advantages produced by the genetic recombination that accompanies sexual reproduction. Here we show that genetic segregation produces an advantage to sexual reproduction even in the absence of an advantage from recombination. Segregation in a diploid sexual population allows selection to carry a single advantageous mutation to a homozygous state, whereas two separate mutations are required in a parthenogenetic population. The complete fixation of advantageous mutations is thus delayed in a heterozygous state in asexual populations. Calculation of the selective load incurred suggests that it may offset the intrinsic twofold reproductive advantage of asexual reproduction and maintain sexual reproduction in diploid populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Mutation
  • Probability
  • Reproduction*
  • Reproduction, Asexual