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Asexual Solution To Parasite Problem

Organisms evolved sexual reproduction so they could stay one step ahead of parasites. Or so the theory goes. But what about beasties that make babies without sex? How do they escape infection? A study in the journal Science suggests that for bdelloid rotifers, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Biologists believe that sex offers an evolutionary advantage because it promotes genetic diversity. Coming up with fresh new gene combinations should allow organisms to outsmart parasites, which are also continuously evolving. But if that theory is correct then bdelloid rotifers, freshwater invertebrates that haven’t had sex in at least 30 million years, should have been parasited into extinction long ago. Yet here they are, alive and well.

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