Maintaining Diversity Sans Sex

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Science  12 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5848, pp. 165
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5848.165g

Some obligate asexual species, including the bdelloid rotifers, have survived for long time periods despite the absence of the benefits of sexual reproduction. These rotifers have ∼400 “species,” yet the means by which these asexual lineages diverge and survive, while presumably accumulating deleterious mutations, is unknown. Pouchkina-Stantcheva et al. (p. 268; see the Perspective by Meselson and Mark Welch) describe an evolutionary mechanism by which genetic and functional diversity can arise in asexuals, and only in asexuals, by divergence of former alleles; in this example, members of the LEA proteins that function in desiccation tolerance.

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