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Unusual modes of reproduction in social insects: Shedding light on the evolutionary paradox of sex


  • Both authors contributed equally to this work.


The study of alternative genetic systems and mixed modes of reproduction, whereby sexual and asexual reproduction is combined within the same lifecycle, is of fundamental importance as they may shed light on classical evolutionary issues, such as the paradox of sex. Recently, several such cases were discovered in social insects. A closer examination of these systems has revealed many amazing facts, including the mixed use of asexual and sexual reproduction for the production of new queens and workers, males that can clone themselves and the routine use of incest without deleterious genetic consequences. In addition, in several species, remarkable cases of asexually reproducing socially parasitic worker lineages have been discovered. The study of these unusual systems promises to provide insight into many basic evolutionary questions, including the maintenance of sex, the expression of sexual conflict and kin conflict and the evolution of cheating in asexual lineages.