Despite the obvious benefits of sex, it's an activity that's biologically disadvantageous under most conditions. Now, a new study published online today (13 October) in Nature helps explain why sex may have evolved, despite its downside.
Single asexual female
monogonont rotifer.

Image: Kuiper and Becks
Specifically, the paper tracked a eukaryote for nearly 100 generations and found that the species was more likely to switch from asexual to sexual reproduction if it encountered varying physical settings, suggesting sex may help species adapt to diverse environments."The paper is an outstanding breakthrough," evolutionary biologist linkurl:Sally Otto; of the University of British Columbia told The Scientist. "It's the first study to track -- in real time -- the evolution of sex in a multicellular eukaryote, finding that higher rates of sex evolve in a spatially complex environment," said Otto, who was not involved in the research.The evolution of sex has long puzzled...
Sexual females carrying resting eggs
(the darker eggs) and asexual females
(with the lighter shaded amictic eggs).

Image: Kuiper and Becks
L. Becks and A.F. Agrawal, "Higher rates of sex evolve in spatially heterogeneous environments," Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature09449, 2010.

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