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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 24;104(17):7139-44. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Reevolution of sexuality breaks Dollo's law.

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  • 1Institut für Zoologie, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstrasse 3, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany.


The dominance of sexual reproduction is still an unresolved enigma in evolutionary biology. Strong advantages of sex have to exist, because only a few parthenogenetic taxa persist over evolutionary timescales. Oribatid mites (Acari) include outstanding exceptions to the rule that parthenogenetically reproducing taxa are of recent origin and doomed to extinction. In addition to the existence of large parthenogenetic clusters in oribatid mites, phylogenetic analyses of this study and model-based reconstruction of ancestral states of reproduction imply that Crotoniidae have reevolved sexuality from parthenogenetic ancestors within one of those clusters. This reversal in reproductive mode is unique in the animal kingdom and violates Dollo's law that complex ancestral states can never be reacquired. The reevolution of sexuality requires that ancestral genes for male production are maintained over evolutionary time. This maintenance likely is true for oribatid mites because spanandric males exist in various species, although mechanisms that enable the storage of genetically ancestral traits are unclear. Our findings present oribatid mites as a unique model system to explore the evolutionary significance of parthenogenetic and sexual reproduction.

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