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10. SEX Previous | Next

There are better ways to reproduce

NO one knows why we reproduce by having sex. All the arguments in favour of sex are countered by stronger arguments in favour of self-cloning: asexual reproduction, where an organism produces a copy of itself, is a much more efficient way to pass your genes down to the next generation. The puzzle is, why hasn’t asexual reproduction taken over? Asexual reproduction does exist in patches of the natural world, but sex is everywhere.

To Charles Darwin, the reason for the prevalence of sexual reproduction was “hidden in darkness”. More than a century later, in 1976, Maynard Smith said the problem with sex was so intransigent it made him feel "some essential feature of the system is being overlooked." Three decades later, the problem is still here.

The intriguing thing is, if you look at sex in terms of how it evolved its relationship with death, some interesting things begin to emerge. Could it be that sex is not the prime driver biology has taught us to believe?

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Location:NC, USA
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#1 - Posted: 06/08/2008 17:20

My understanding is that our planet's DNA is all about diversity (in everything), so how is it sensible to think of a single approach to sex as prime?

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Location:West Valley, Utah, USA
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#2 - Posted: 07/08/2008 18:37

In the USA and Europe, sex is primarily used for pleasure.  Babies that are not aborted often live with genetic defects that may impair their enjoyment of life.  Cloned babies should be as cute and lovable as birth babies with a much lower incidence of inherited defects.  Modifications to certain sections of DNA could be used to provide variety in physical appearance and personality. 

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Location:Lewes, UK
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#3 - Posted: 08/08/2008 08:59

Darwufche, you're right: sex gives genetic diversity , which is useful when habitats vary. But asexual reproduction means you can reproduce your own genes (rather than only half of them because you're sharing the progeny with someone else) and do it twice as fast as sexual reproducers. So it's 4 times better. And studies of what happens when habitats vary suggest that the usefuleness of a bit of genetic variation doesn't hold a candle to that 4-fold benefit of asexual reproduction.

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#4 - Posted: 09/08/2008 00:10

Sexual reproduction will probably dominate in species prone to diseases that change faster than the base organism can deal with, because diseases, over time, would kill off all disease prone non-sexual reproducers. What I find a mistery is why the super specialization in sex. Why aren't we all hermaphrodites where you could be father or mother or both (self fertilize)?

 

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#5 - Posted: 14/08/2008 21:50

 

What about the benefit of having two parents protect the offspring verses one? Or the notion of small communities looking out for each other which it may lead or, have led to?

In response to Tavi’s question (And I’m no expert) I’d say the answer to that lies in the advantages and disadvantages of carrying the offspring: Having a sort of partnership relationship (I know it’s not ubiquitous) means that the parent carrying the offspring has the disadvantage of being in a weaker state while doing so, also I’d say (And I’ve probably read this somewhere) it is a disadvantage do to the fact of added wear and tear on that individuals body, itself. However, it offers the advantage to that individual of added protection by the non-carrying participant who has a stake in seeing ‘his’ procreation come to fruition. I know I’m going in a circle here but wouldn’t this then lead to the “emergent property” or sense of community and grouping together of individuals which release signals (Chemical, vocal, etc.) to warn the group of impending dangers?

I’m sure there must have been studies done on the advantages vs disadvantages of carrying the offspring vs those of just “Fathering”. It would seem that the female would be at more of a disadvantage but then the males must be stronger and live a more dangerous life, so I don’t know.

 In adding to my response to Tavi’s question of ‘super specialization’ in sex, there must also be some deterrent(s) to being both asexual and sexual, is it indeed disadvantageous to maintain both abilities?

What about this ‘fun’ aspect? Do multi-cellular organisms reach a point where they (Some of them at least) ‘crave’ contact with like members? Would this be an emergent property of multicellularity itself?

Just some thoughts.

Forgive my lack of clarity, please.

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