Queen Succession Through Asexual Reproduction in Termites

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Science  27 Mar 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5922, pp. 1687
DOI: 10.1126/science.1169702

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The evolution and maintenance of sexual reproduction may involve important tradeoffs because asexual reproduction can double an individual's contribution to the gene pool but reduces diversity. Moreover, in social insects the maintenance of genetic diversity among workers may be important for colony growth and survival. We identified a previously unknown termite breeding system in which both parthenogenesis and sexual reproduction are conditionally used. Queens produce their replacements asexually but use normal sexual reproduction to produce other colony members. These findings show how eusociality can lead to extraordinary reproductive systems and provide important insights into the advantages and disadvantages of sex.

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