Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sex as we know it...


The Red Queen responds: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place"

This quote drives the Red Queen Hypothesis whereby coevolution in the form of parasites versus their pray may have brought about sex...


It seems we may have parasites to thank for the existence of sex as we know it. Indiana University biologists have found that, although sexual reproduction between two individuals is costly from an evolutionary perspective, it is favored over self-fertilization in the presence of coevolving parasites. Sex allows parents to produce offspring that are more resistant to the parasites, while self-fertilization dooms populations to extinction at the hands of their biological enemies.


The July 8 report in Science, "Running with the Red Queen: Host-Parasite Coevolution Selects for Biparental Sex," affirms the Red Queen hypothesis, an evolutionary theory who's name comes from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland text: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." The idea is that sexual reproduction via cross-fertilization keeps host populations one evolutionary step ahead of the parasites, which are coevolving to infect them. It is within this coevolutionary context that both hosts and parasites are running (evolving) as fast as they can just to stay in the same place.


"But I don't want to go among mad people," said Alice. "Oh, you can't help that," said the cat. "We're all mad here." - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland



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