On the origin of asexual species by means of hybridization and drift

Publication: Research - peer-reviewEditorial


Several species of asexuals appear to have existed for millions of years. This is despite the prevalent view that natural selection is weakened without gene exchange, which should cause these organisms to rapidly go extinct. In theory, one can identify evolutionary long-lived asexuals from their allelic sequence divergence, also known as the 'Meselson effect', which leads to elevated within-individual diversity. Yet evidence that this phenomenon exists is mixed. Furthermore, several confounding factors can lead to similar outcomes, including the formation of asexual species by hybridization. Disentangling these factors has proved to be tricky, but Ament-Velasquez et al. (2016) have provided an elegant solution in this issue of Molecular Ecology. They studied transcriptomes and mitochondrial DNA from the Lineus genus of nemertean worms, which contains both sexual and asexual types, to first show that the asexual L. pseudolactus is a hybrid between a sexual and an asexual species. After isolating out diversity arising from this hybridization, they find subsequent evidence for the Meselson effect. This study sets a new standard for differentiating between the complex causes and consequences of asexuality.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number14
Pages (from-to)3264-3265
Number of pages2
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • animal mating, breeding systems, ecological genetics, evolution of sex, population genetics, BDELLOID ROTIFERS, FACULTATIVE SEX

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