Research Article

Evidence for the Evolution of Bdelloid Rotifers Without Sexual Reproduction or Genetic Exchange

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Science  19 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5469, pp. 1211-1215
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5469.1211

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The Class Bdelloidea of the Phylum Rotifera is the largest metazoan taxon in which males, hermaphrodites, and meiosis are unknown. We conducted a molecular genetic test of this indication that bdelloid rotifers may have evolved without sexual reproduction or genetic exchange. The test is based on the expectation that after millions of years without these processes, genomes will no longer contain pairs of closely similar haplotypes and instead will contain highly divergent descendants of formerly allelic nucleotide sequences. We find that genomes of individual bdelloid rotifers, representing four different species, appear to lack pairs of closely similar sequences and contain representatives of two ancient lineages that began to diverge before the bdelloid radiation many millions of years ago when sexual reproduction and genetic exchange may have ceased.

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