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Science. 2000 Oct 13;290(5490):331-3.

Deleterious mutations and the evolution of sex.

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  • 1Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK.


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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