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, 45 (3), 313-23

Selection Against Deleterious Mutations and the Maintenance of Biparental Sex


Selection Against Deleterious Mutations and the Maintenance of Biparental Sex

R S Howard. Theor Popul Biol.


The mutational deterministic hypothesis postulates an advantage to sexual over asexual reproduction when mutation rates are on the order of 1.0 per genome per generation, provided that selection takes the form of a synergistic epistasis. While the efficacy of this mechanism has been investigated for infinite populations, its ability to protect sex in finite populations exhibiting stochastic dynamics remains untested. Stochastic processes have the potential to undermine protection for sex in two ways: (1) asexual lineages derived from sexual ancestors may, by chance, be founded by individuals bearing fewer than the equilibrium mean number of mutations, and (2) once established, such lineages will undergo random perturbations in the rates at which they grow and accumulate mutations. In the present study, I show using computer simulation that sexual populations of as many as 10,000 individuals are susceptible to invasion by asexual lineages for mutation rates higher than predicted under the mutational deterministic hypothesis. My simulations differ from previous investigations in that they model the progress of asexual lineages into sexual populations as both stochastic and deterministic processes for various mutation rates, selection regimes, and population sizes. It is suggested that ecological factors, such as parasitism or release from competition, could interact with selection against deleterious mutations to protect sex. To provide the sole explanation for sex, however, may require that selection against deleterious mutations be accompanied by mutation rates on the order of 2.0 per genome per generation.

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