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+ - Why Asexual Organisms Are on Their Last Legs

Submitted by
Hugh Pickens
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that asexual organisms are extremely rare but bdelloid rotifers reproduce asexually and seem to have speciated as extensively as sexually reproducing organisms. Now researchers say they can explain how the tiny freshwater invertebrates have been able to reproduce without sex for over 30 million years. Rotifers dwell in the most ephemeral of freshwater habitats. Not just in small puddles, but in the transient layer of moisture sometimes found on moss or lichens—even on mushrooms where dessication is a routine occurrence providing the key to how bdelloids evade the constraints of the Red Queen Hypothesis — the theory that asexual lineages are quickly ended by coevolving parasites and pathogens. The researchers raised populations of the rotifers in a lab, and observed that the asexual invertebrates could rid themselves of a deadly fungal parasite by drying themselves up completely and blowing away with the wind to new territory. By doing so, the rotifers became so desiccated that their parasites could not survive the punishing conditions. The rotifers were then able to ride the breeze and start afresh in new, presumably parasite-free pastures proving that there can be advantages to reproducing without sex: "You don't have to find a mate," says Johns Logsdon, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Iowa. "If you find a mate you don't have to worry about things like venereal disease, you don't have to worry about getting attacked in the process of a sex act.""
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Why Asexual Organisms Are on Their Last Legs

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