The accumulation of deleterious mutations within the frozen niche variation hypothesis


Dr Graeme Pound, School of Engineering Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel.: +44 (0) 23 8023493; fax: +44 (0) 23 8059 7082;


The frozen niche variation hypothesis proposes that asexual clones exploit a fraction of a total resource niche available to the sexual population from which they arise. Differences in niche breadth may allow a period of coexistence between a sexual population and the faster reproducing asexual clones. Here, we model the longer term threat to the persistence of the sexual population from an accumulation of clonal diversity, balanced by the cost to the asexual population resulting from a faster rate of accumulation of deleterious mutations. We use Monte-Carlo simulations to quantify the interaction of niche breadth with accumulating deleterious mutations. These two mechanisms may act synergistically to prevent the extinction of the sexual population, given: (1) sufficient genetic variation, and consequently niche breadth, in the sexual population; (2) a relatively slow rate of accumulation of genetic diversity in the clonal population; (3) synergistic epistasis in the accumulation of deleterious mutations.