Tiny species found that evolve without sex

Jan. 22, 2004 at 1:41 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Biologists have confirmed a group of microscopic animals evolved for tens of millions of years without sexual reproduction.

Results by researchers at the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution at the Marine Biological Laboratory have demonstrated a radical exception to the biological rule that abandonment of sexual reproduction is an evolutionary dead end.

While nearly all multicellular organisms reproduce sexually, this form of reproduction is much less efficient than asexual reproduction whereby females effectively make clones of themselves, the researchers say.

In a paper to be published in next week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MBL scientist Jessica Mark Welch and her colleagues provide the strongest evidence to date of evolvement without sexual reproduction.

"Sex and genetic recombination are obviously tremendously important for life," says Welch, "but we don't understand why they are so important. When we do eventually understand, it could have practical consequences we can't yet imagine.

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