Mammalian chiasma frequencies as a test of two theories of recombination

Nature. 1987 Apr;326(6115):803-5. doi: 10.1038/326803a0.


A broad survey of asexuality in the animal kingdom is sufficient to reject all theories of sex and recombination except two: the Red Queen and the Tangled Bank. The Red Queen theory states that an organism's biotic environment tends to be 'contrary', consistently evolving to the detriment of the organism; sex and recombination result in progeny genetically distinct from their parents and grandparents and thus less susceptible to the antagonistic advances made during the previous generations, particularly by their parasites. The alternative theory, the Tangled Bank, states that sex and recombination function to diversify the progeny from each other, thus reducing competition between them. An extensive survey of mammalian recombination shows that the total number of chiasmata in excess of one per bivalent is strongly correlated with generation time but uncorrelated with fecundity. We conclude that crossing-over may function to combat antagonists with short generation times but does not function to reduce sib competition. Chromosome number is selectively neutral with respect to these factors.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Gene Frequency*
  • Haploidy
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Models, Genetic
  • Recombination, Genetic*