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J Evol Biol. 2008 Jan;21(1):287-93. Epub 2007 Nov 7.

Obligate asex in a rotifer and the role of sexual signals.

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Institute for Limnology, Mondsee, Austria.


Transitions to asexuality have occurred in many animals and plants, yet the biological mechanisms causing such transitions have often remained unclear. Cyclical parthenogens, such as cladocerans, rotifers or aphids often give rise to obligate asexual lineages. In many rotifers, chemical signals that accumulate during population crowding trigger the induction of sexual stages. In this study, I tested two hypotheses on the origin of obligate parthenogenesis in the rotifer Brachionus calyciflorus: (i) that obligate parthenogens have lost the responsiveness to the sexual signal; and (ii) that obligate parthenogens have lost the ability to produce the sexual signal. Pairwise cross-induction assays among three obligate parthenogenetic strains and two cyclically parthenogenetic (sexual) strains were used to test these hypotheses. I found that obligate parthenogens can induce sexual reproduction in sexual strains, but not vice versa. This demonstrates that obligate parthenogens do still produce the sexual signal, but have lost responsiveness to that signal.

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