February 29, 2020
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Sex: A Survival Guide

Sex: A Survival Guide

WHAT'S love got to do with it? Fitter genes. In one of the first studies to uphold sex as a master evolutionary strategy, a researcher at the Wake Forest University, US, reports that sex is great when it comes to getting rid of harmful genetic mutations, thereby boosting a population's stamina to survive.

This hurrah for sex comes from an examination of yeast. Clifford Zeyl, assistant professor of biology at the university, studied the 'baby-making' rituals of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and found that the 'love-making' types were better at removing undesirable genetic mutations than the single-sexed.

Genetically speaking, sex is more than a little messy. Why go through the rigmarole if you can transmit only half your genes to your children? After all, asexual organisms can pass on all their genes to their posterity.

Zeyl's work is significant as it makes a fine case for evolution of sex. The other explanation, that it produces novel and interesting genetic combinations for adapting to environmental changes, wasn't endorsed by the yeast: sexually active yeast fared no better in new environments than asexual ones.

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