Sex solves Haldane’s dilemma Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The cumulative reproductive cost of multi-locus selection has been considered to be a potentially limiting factor on the rate of adaptive evolution. In this paper, we show that Haldane’s arguments for the accumulation of reproductive costs over multiple loci are valid only for a clonally reproducing population of asexual genotypes. We show that a sexually reproducing population avoids this accumulation of costs. Thus, sex removes a perceived reproductive constraint on the rate of adaptive evolution. The significance of our results is twofold. First, the results demonstrate that adaptation based on multiple genes—such as selection acting on the standing genetic variation—does not entail a huge reproductive cost as suggested by Haldane, provided of course that the population is reproducing sexually. Second, this reduction in the cost of natural selection provides a simple biological explanation for the advantage of sex. Specifically, Haldane’s calculations illustrate the evolutionary disadvantage of asexuality; sexual reproduction frees the population from this disadvantage.

publication date

  • November 2019