Understanding the evolutionary consequences of sexual and asexual reproduction remains one of the most hotly-debated topics in evolutionary biology, with contemporary genomics technology now offering the prospect of shedding new light on this issue. Despite a lower intrinsic population growth rate, because sexual species maintain greater genetic diversity they should have greater prospects of adaptation and survival through unpredictable or changing environments; and recombination during meiosis could reduce mutational load.
Indeed, sexual reproduction is the predominant mode of reproduction in multicellular organisms and likely evolved early in the history of eukaryotes. Asexual reproduction has been largely considered as an evolutionary dead-end, with almost all contemporary asexuals being the result of the secondary loss of sexuality.
The mode of origin and the age of an asexual lineage will influence its levels of genetic diversity, ecological adaptability and ability to compete with sexual relatives. Comparative genomic analysis of sexual and related asexual lineages are crucial to better understand the widely-debated consequences of loss of sex, the adaptive potential of sexual reproduction and the changes in genome organization associated with different evolutionary transitions between reproductive modes.
I. hastata is the only odonate species known to be parthenogenetic and one rare examples of an arthropod that fulfils the criteria of obligate parthenogenesis, diploidy, and geographic isolation from sexual relatives. As the evolutionary transition from obligate diplodiploidy to asexuality is unlikely to revert to amphimixis, I. hastata is expected to have the genomic signature of the mechanisms behind loss of sex.
This project aims to determine the genomic consequences of the abandonment of sexual reproduction in Ischnura hastata, to evaluate the impact of this exceptional evolutionary transition upon genomic architecture of this species.
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