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FYI: What's The Point Of Sex?


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FYI: What's The Point Of Sex?

Lots of animals reproduce asexually. Why not humans?

By Benjamin Ewen-CampenPosted 08.26.2013 at 11:30 am

 

BdelloidRotifers.jpg

It Would Be So Much Easier to Clone Ourselves, Right? Bdelloid Rotifers, all-female animals that live in ponds, have reproduced without sex for millions of years. Diego Fontaneto via Wikipedia

This may seem obvious. But in evolutionary terms, the benefits of sexual reproduction are not immediately clear. Male rhinoceros beetles grow huge, unwieldy horns half the length of their body that they use to fight for females. Ribbon-tailed birds of paradise produce outlandish plumage to attract a mate. Darwin was bothered by such traits, since his theory of evolution couldn’t completely explain them (“The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me feel sick!” he wrote to a friend).

Moreover, sex allows an unrelated, possibly inferior partner to insert half a genome into the next generation. So why is sex nearly universal across animals, plants and fungi? Shouldn’t natural selection favor animals that forgo draining displays and genetic roulette and simply clone themselves?

 

Yes and no. Many animals do clone themselves; certain sea anemones can bud identical twins from the sides of their bodies. Aphids, bees and ants can reproduce asexually. Virgin births sometimes occur among hammerhead sharks, turkeys, boa constrictors and komodo dragons. But nearly all animals engage in sex at some point in their lives Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://www.realclearscience.com/

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