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Study finds role for parasites in evolution of sex
Date:7/6/2009

versity of Washington and Curtis Lively of Indian University, Bloomington began observing several populations of these snails for ten years starting in 1994. They monitored the number of sexuals, the number asexuals, and the rates of parasite infection for both.

The team found that clones that were plentiful at the beginning of the study became more susceptible to parasites over time. As parasite infections increased, the once plentiful clones dwindled dramatically in number. Some clonal types disappeared entirely. Meanwhile, sexual snail populations remained much more stable over time. This, the authors say, is exactly the pattern predicted by the parasite hypothesis.

"The rise and fall of these female-only lineages was surprisingly fast and consistent with the prediction of the parasite hypothesis for sex," Jokela said. "These results suggest that sexual reproduction provides an evolutionary advantage in parasite rich environments."

So we may well have to thank parasitesin spite of their nasty reputationfor the joy of sex.


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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
773-834-0386
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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