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The cost of sex revisited: effects of male gamete output of hermaphrodites that are asexual in their female capacity

, : The cost of sex revisited: effects of male gamete output of hermaphrodites that are asexual in their female capacity. Journal of Theoretical Biology 195(4): 533-542

The genetic cost of sexual reproduction has been attributed to two causes in mathematical formulations: male function or genome dilution. We develop and analyse a genetic model that shows that both costs occur, depending upon the conditions. The model differs from previous formulations in that the level of output and fertilization success of male gametes produced by hermaphrodites that are asexual in their female function (henceforth "parthenogenetic hermaphrodites") are treated as variables, rather than constants fixed at 0 or 1, as has previously been the case. By expressing the cost of sex in terms of per capita egg loss of sexual individuals and parthenogenetic hermaphrodites, we partition the cost into components due to male function and genome dilution. Which component dominates the cost of sex depends upon the relative male gamete output of the parthenogenetic hermaphrodites. The cost of sex is observed to increase, or remain unchanged in some marginal cases, with increases in (i) frequency of parthenogenetic hermaphrodites, (ii) fertilization success of male gametes produced by parthenogenetic hermaphrodites and (iii) potential eggs lost by diverting resources to male gamete production. In certain situations, parthenogenetic hermaphrodites with an intermediate level of male gamete output have the greatest fitness advantage over sexual individuals. If heritable variation for levels of male gamete output exists among parthenogenetic hermaphrodites, this raises the possibility of the evolution of optimal levels of male gamete production by parthenogenetic hermaphrodites through natural selection, in situations of recurring invasion of asexual populations by propagules from sexual populations, a scenario that is increasingly being appreciated as potentially fairly likely to occur in nature.


PMID: 9837707

DOI: 10.1006/jtbi.1998.0811

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