- The costs of sex: facing real-world complexities
- The Quarterly Review of Biology
- Volume | Issue number
- 87 | 1
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Understanding the maintenance of sexual reproduction constitutes a difficult problem for evolutionary biologists because of the immediate costs that sex seems to incur. Typically, general benefits to sex and recombination are investigated that might outweigh these costs. However, several factors can strongly influence the complex balance between costs and benefits of sex; these include constraints on the evolution of asexuality, ecological differentiation, and certain life-history traits. We review these factors and their empirical support for the first time in a unified framework and find that they can reduce the costs of sex, circumvent them, or make them inapplicable. These factors can even tip the scales to a net benefit for sex. The reviewed factors affect species and species groups differently, and we conclude consequently that understanding the maintenance of sex could turn out to be more species-specific than commonly assumed. Interestingly, our study suggests that, in some species, no general benefits to sex and recombination might be needed to understand the maintenance of sex, as in our case study of dandelions.
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