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Sexually but not parthenogenetically produced females benefit from mating in a stick insect


Burke, Nathan; Bonduriansky, Russell (2022), Sexually but not parthenogenetically produced females benefit from mating in a stick insect, Dryad, Dataset,


In facultatively parthenogenetic populations, the prevalence of sexual reproduction depends on whether females mate and therefore produce sons and daughters or avoid mating and produce daughters only. The relative advantage of mating in such species may depend on a female’s own reproductive origin (i.e., development from a fertilised or unfertilised egg) if parthenogenesis reduces heterozygosity similarly to sexual inbreeding, or if it inhibits mating, sperm storage or fertilisation. But effects of reproductive origin on development and performance are poorly understood. Using the facultatively parthenogenetic stick insect, Extatosoma tiaratum, we quantified morphology, mating probability, and reproductive success in mated versus unmated females of sexual versus automictic (parthenogenetic) origin. We found strong evidence that increased homozygosity negatively impacted some traits in parthenogenetically produced females: compared to sexually produced females, parthenogenetically produced females were smaller and more prone to deformities in vestigial wings, but not more prone to fluctuating asymmetry in their legs. Parthenogenetically produced females received fewer mating attempts and avoided mating more often than sexually produced females. Yet, contrary to the expectation that sex should rescue parthenogenetic lineages from the detrimental effects of increased homozygosity, parthenogenetically produced females gained no net reproductive benefit from mating, suggesting that physiological constraints limit fitness returns of sexual reproduction for these females. Our findings indicate that advantages of mating in this species depend on female reproductive origin. These results could help to explain spatial distributions of sex in facultatively parthenogenetic animals and evolutionary transitions to obligate asexuality.

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Australian Research Council