LET US NOT BE UNFAIR TO ASEXUALS: THEIR EPHEMERALITY MAY BE EXPLAINED BY NEUTRAL MODELS WITHOUT INVOKING ANY EVOLUTIONARY CONSTRAINTS OF ASEXUALITY

Authors

  • Karel Janko

    1. Laboratory of Fish Genetics, Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Liběchov, Czech Republic
    2. Life Science Research Centre, Department of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Ostrava, Ostrava, Czech Republic
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Abstract

Phylogenetic studies typically demonstrate lower evolutionary ages of clones, relative to their sexual ancestors. This has often been attributed to heightened extinction risk of asexual organisms. We previously criticized such interpretations and demonstrated that the life span of clones is ultimately limited by neutral drift depending on the rate at which new clones are spawned into an asexual community of a finite size. Therefore, it is important to investigate whether the natural rates of such influxes are sufficiently high to account for the relative ephemerality of clones without assuming their increased extinction rate. I applied the neutral clonal turnover model to phylogenies of polyploid asexual ferns and simulated the coalescent trees over a wide range of demographic structures and sampling schemes. On parameterizing the model with biologically relevant estimates of population sizes and plant polyploidization rates, simulated clonal assemblages appeared younger than their sexual counterparts even in the absence of selection against clones. Therefore, differences observed between the ages of sexual and clonal lineages may be explained by the neutral clonal turnover. Researchers should consider the possibility that natural clones may get lost by neutral drift before their fate could eventually be affected by any long-term constraints of asexuality.

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