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Biol Lett. 2005 Jun 22;1(2):193-5.

Selection by parasites may increase host recombination frequency.

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  • 1ETH Zürich, Ecology & Evolution, ETH-Zentrum NW, Zürich, Switzerland.


Meiotic recombination destroys successful genotypes and it is therefore thought to evolve only under a very limited set of conditions. Here, we experimentally show that recombination rates across two linkage groups of the host, the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, increase with exposure to the microsporidian parasite, Nosema whitei, particularly when parasites were allowed to coevolve with their hosts. Selection by randomly varied parasites resulted in smaller effects, while directional selection for insecticide resistance initially reduced recombination slightly. These results, at least tentatively, suggest that short-term benefits of recombination--and thus the evolution of sex--may be related to parasitism.

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