Deleterious Mutations and the Evolution of Sex

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Science  13 Oct 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5490, pp. 331-333
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5490.331

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It has been suggested that sexual reproduction is maintained because it reduces the load imposed by recurrent deleterious mutations. If rates of deleterious mutation per diploid genome per generation (U) exceed 1, and mutations interact synergistically, then sexuals can overcome their inherent twofold disadvantage. We have tested this hypothesis by estimating genomic point mutation rates for protein-coding genes in a range of animal taxa. We find a positive linear relationship between U and generation time. In species with short generation times, U is predicted to be far below 1, suggesting that sex is not maintained by its capacity to purge the genome of deleterious mutations.

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