An uncoupling of male and sexual egg production leads to reduced inbreeding in the cyclical parthenogen Daphnia

Luc De Meester, Joost Vanoverbeke

Abstract

Cyclical parthenogenesis involves an alternation of parthenogenetic and sexual reproduction. In cyclical parthenogens with a short generation time, seasonal succession of clones switching to sexual reproduction at different periods of the growing season entails the risk of severe inbreeding with associated fitness costs. We show, however, that differences in genotype frequencies between males and sexual females result in a substantial reduction in the probability of selfing in natural Daphnia populations. This suggests that responses to male‐ and sexual egg‐inducing stimuli may be uncoupled at the level of individual clones as a mechanism to avoid severe inbreeding.

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