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THE MAINTENANCE OF OBLIGATE SEX IN FINITE, STRUCTURED POPULATIONS SUBJECT TO RECURRENT BENEFICIAL AND DELETERIOUS MUTATION

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Abstract

Although there is no known general explanation as to why sexual populations resist asexual invasion, previous work has shown that sexuals can outcompete asexuals in structured populations. However, it is currently unknown whether costly sex can be maintained with the weak structure that is commonly observed in nature. We investigate the conditions under which obligate sexuals resist asexual invasion in structured populations subject to recurrent mutation. We determine the level of population structure needed to disfavor asexuals, as calculated using the average Fst between all pairs of demes. We show that the critical Fst needed to maintain sex decreases as the population size increases, and approaches modest levels as observed in many natural populations. Sex is maintained with lower Fst if there are both advantageous and deleterious mutation, if mutation rates are sufficiently high, and if deleterious mutants have intermediate selective strengths, which maximizes the effect of Muller’s ratchet. Additionally, the critical Fst needed to maintain sex is lower when there are a large number of subpopulations. Lower Fst values are needed to maintain sex when demes vary substantially in their pairwise distances (e.g., when arrayed along one dimension), although this effect is often modest, especially if some long-distance dispersal is present.

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