Assistant Professor Maurine Neiman, Associate Professor John Logsdon Jr. and colleagues said they examined the theory that sexual reproduction, while requiring more time and energy than asexual reproduction, is much more common among living organisms and, therefore, must be beneficial.
The scientists studied sexual and asexual varieties of a New Zealand freshwater snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) by sequencing mitochondrial genomes. They discovered the sexually reproducing snails had accumulated harmful DNA mutations at about half the rate of the asexual snails.
"This is the first study to compare mutation accumulation in a species where sexual individuals and asexual individuals regularly coexist, and thus provides the most direct evidence to date that sex helps to counter the accumulation of harmful mutations," Neiman said.
The study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.