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Evolution IV - contents. Male competition for promiscuous females Asexual reproduction Reasons for the evolution of sex Sex ratios. Adaptive reasons for female promiscuity. In many species, females mate (potentially) with more than one male

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Evolution IV - contents

  • Male competition for promiscuous females

  • Asexual reproduction

  • Reasons for the evolution of sex

  • Sex ratios


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Adaptive reasons for female promiscuity

  • In many species, females mate (potentially) with more than one male

  • Potential reasons may be related to the fact that males with best genes are not necessarily the best carers, and vice versa

  • Potential benefits are that sperm competition between males results in the genotypically best sperm winning

  • Also, female avoids “putting all eggs in one basket” – more varied immunocompetence


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Promiscuous females

  • Conflict of interest between males and females

  • In species with promiscuous females, males have often “invented” strategies to monopolize females


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Dealing with female promiscuity

  • Strategy 1 – guarding females

Titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus) –

monogamous

Common Shore Tiger Beetle-

Cicindela repanda


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Dealing with female promiscuity

  • Strategy 2 – removing the sperm of competitors from the female genital tract

  • for example, dragonflies (picture from Alcock) have barbed penises

  • some whales “flush” the vagina of their partners with seawater


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Dealing with female promiscuity

  • Strategy 3 – apply unpleasant smell to female (“anti-aphrodisiac”)

  • e.g. some Heliconius

    butterflies


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Dealing with female promiscuity

  • Strategy 4 – seal the females genital tract (“chastity belt”)

  • e.g. in some bees, and Moniliformes worms


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Why sex?

  • In one view, sexual reproduction can be thought of as a tremendous waste of time and resources.

  • Think about how much time you and other animals invest into finding the right person, courting the partner, keeping that partner, etc.

  • Plus, sex is a potentially very dangerous affair when you can’t attend to approaching predators while being engaged in it – also there is a risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Finally, “cloning yourself” through asexual reproduction means that something that already thrives (you) does not necessarily need alteration through recombination – why “destroy” adaptive and successful combinations of genes?


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The cost of sex – fewer copies of a female’s genome!

  • If a female can produce e.g. 10 offspring, she could produce 10 full copies of her own genome by parthenogenesis – but 10 offspring produced through mating with a male would only contain 10 half copies of her genome


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Many organisms don’t have sex, or can alternate between sexual and asexual reproduction

Asexual reproduction in protozoans (e.g. amoeba)


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Asexual reproduction sexual and asexual reproduction

  • generally is much more common in plants than in animals

  • Offspring typically genetically identical to parent


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Budding in animals sexual and asexual reproduction

  • e.g. in Coelenterates (Hydra)


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Photo by Prof Jim Hardie sexual and asexual reproduction

Self-cloning in aphids, mother having just given birth to live offspring (mothers can be pregnant with their own grandchildren!)


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Parthenogenesis sexual and asexual reproduction

  • Parthenogenesis (“virgin birth”): females lay unfertilised eggs. Examples: bees, some fish, Cnemidophorus lizards


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If so many organisms can do without sex, why do others still engage in it?

  • “Conjugation” sex in a Ciliate


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Why sex? engage in it?

  • Sex means recombination – reshuffling of genes.

  • In the long term, such recombination will allow species to adapt to changing environment conditions, colonise new habitats, etc.

  • But evolution does not plan for the future – hence most evolutionary biologists would agree that there must also be a short term advantage


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Short term benefits of sexual reproduction engage in it?

  • Recombination facilitates repair of damaged DNA

  • Futuyma: “breaks and other lesions in a DNA can be repaired by copying from an intact sequence from a homologous chromosome”

  • Indeed, some bacteria that have damaged DNA will immediately engage in plenty of sex


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The red queen race engage in it?

  • "in this place it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Lewis Carroll "Through the Looking Glass"


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The red queen race (term coined by Van Valen, U. Chicago) engage in it?

  • An organism’s environment is constantly changing – especially parasites / diseases with short generation times may evolve very rapidly (but also predators, competitors may be engaged in an arms race with any given species)

  • Hence, having genetically variable offspring may have immediate, short term benefits


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In most species the ratio between males and females is close to 1:1

  • Why?

  • In many species, the 1:1 segregation of X and Y chromosomes (that determine sex) sets a mechanistic constraint

  • But many species have different mechanisms of sex determination

  • There are also adaptive explanations


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Theoretically, a population with enough males to fertilise all females would produce most offspring


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Adaptive explanation for 1:1 sex ratio (R.A. Fisher) all females would produce most offspring

  • Consider a population with 1 male to 5 females

  • In such a population, each male mates with (on average) 5 females

  • This means that females that produce more sons than daughters will produce more offspring (since sons will be more successful)

  • Thus, when males have an advantage (through being rare), more and more will be produced until sexes are in equilibrium


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