Evolutionary Biology

Facultative parthenogenesis: a transient state in transitions between sex and obligate asexuality in stick insects?

10.24072/pcjournal.283 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e60.

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Transitions from obligate sex to obligate parthenogenesis have occurred repeatedly across the tree of life. Whether these transitions occur abruptly or via a transient phase of facultative parthenogenesis is rarely known. We discovered and characterised facultatively parthenogenetic populations of the North American stick insect Timema douglasi, a species in which only obligately parthenogenetic populations were known so far. These populations comprised three genetic lineages. Females from all lineages were capable of parthenogenesis (with variable efficiency) but their propensity to reproduce sexually after mating varied extensively. In all three lineages, parthenogenesis resulted in the complete loss of heterozygosity in a single generation. Obligately parthenogenetic Timema have also lost all heterozygosity, suggesting that the transition to obligate parthenogenesis did not require a modification of the proximate mechanism, but rather involved a gradual increase in frequency. We speculate that facultative parthenogenesis may often be transient and be replaced by obligate strategies (either sex or parthenogenesis) because of a trade-off between the efficiency of the two reproductive modes. Such a trade-off could help explain why facultative parthenogenesis is rare among animals, despite its potential to combine the known benefits of sex and parthenogenesis.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.283
Keywords: Timema douglasi, Phasmatodea, gamete duplication, automixis, heterozygosity, RAD sequencing, reproductive system, reproductive mode.
Larose, Chloé 1; Lavanchy, Guillaume 1; Freitas, Susana 1; Parker, Darren J. 2, 3; Schwander, Tanja 1

1 Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
2 Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne
3 School of Natural Sciences, Brambell Building, Bangor University, Bangor, LL57 2UW, United Kingdom
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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     title = {Facultative parthenogenesis: a transient state in transitions between sex and obligate asexuality in stick insects?},
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Larose, Chloé; Lavanchy, Guillaume; Freitas, Susana; Parker, Darren J.; Schwander, Tanja. Facultative parthenogenesis: a transient state in transitions between sex and obligate asexuality in stick insects?. Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article  no. e60. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.283. https://peercommunityjournal.org/articles/10.24072/pcjournal.283/

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100551

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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