Why Do Hybrids Turn Down Sex?

Frederic Fyon, Waldir Miron, Ingo Schlupp, Geoff Wild, Francisco Úbeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asexual reproduction is ancestral in prokaryotes; the switch to sexuality in eukaryotes is one of the major transitions in the history of life. The study of the maintenance of sex in eukaryotes has raised considerable interest for decades and is still one of evolutionary biology’s most prominent question. The observation that many asexual species are of hybrid origin have led some to propose that asexuality in hybrids results from sexual processes being disturbed because of incompatibilities between the two parental species’ genomes. However, in some cases, failure to produce asexual F1s in the lab may indicate that this mechanism is not the only road to asexuality in hybrid species. Here, we present a mathematical model and propose an alternative, adaptive route for the evolution of asexuality from previously sexual hybrids. Under some reproductive alterations, we show that asexuality can evolve to rescue hybrids’ reproduction. Importantly, we highlight that when incompatibilities only affect the fusion of sperm and egg’s genomes, the two traits that characterize asexuality, namely unreduced meiosis and the initiation of embryogenesis without the incorporation of the sperm’s pronucleus, can evolve separately, greatly facilitating the overall evolutionary route. Taken together, our results provide an alternative, potentially complementary explanation for the link between asexuality and hybridization.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberqpad129
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2023

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