A pluralist approach to sex and recombination


West Dr Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, King’s Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK. Tel: +44 131 6505496; fax: +44 131 6506564; e-mail: Stu. West@ed.ac.uk


One of the greatest challenges for evolutionary biology is explaining the widespread occurrence of sexual reproduction and the associated process of genetic recombination. A large number of theories have been developed that provide a sufficient short-term advantage for sex to offset its two-fold cost. These theories can be broadly classified into environmental (or ecological) and mutation-based models. Traditionally, the different theories have been viewed as competing, and empirical work has attempted to distinguish between them. Here we highlight the advantages that may be gained from considering that multiple mechanisms (environmental and mutational) may be at work, and that interactions between the theories may be very important.