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Biosystems. 2012 Dec;110(3):156-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2012.09.006. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

The significance of sex.

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Institute of Biotechnology, Viikinkaari 1, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


Sexual and asexual modes of proliferation are associated with advantages and disadvantages, yet a profound percept that would account for both ways of reproduction is missing. On the basis of the 2nd law of thermodynamics we find that both sexual and asexual reproduction can be regarded as a means to consume free energy in least time. Parthenogenesis is a fast way to consume a rich repository of free energy, e.g., an ample stock of food with a large number of individuals, whereas sexual reproduction is a fast way to consume diverse and dispersed resources with a large variety of individuals. Most organisms have adapted to their surroundings accordingly and some organisms switch from one mode of reproduction to the other depending on the amount and dispersion of free-energy sources. We conclude that the least-time free energy consumption in respective surroundings, as the general criterion of natural selection, determines also sexual and asexual modes of reproduction.

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