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Parthenogenesis doubles the rate of amino acid substitution in Whiptail mitochondria


Maldonado, Jose; Firneno Jr, Thomas; Hall, Alexander; Fujita, Matthew (2022), Parthenogenesis doubles the rate of amino acid substitution in Whiptail mitochondria, Dryad, Dataset,


Sexual reproduction is ubiquitous in the natural world, suggesting that sex must have extensive benefits to overcome the cost of males compared to asexual reproduction. One hypothesized advantage of sex with strong theoretical support is that sex plays a role in removing deleterious mutations from the genome. Theory predicts that transitions to asexuality should lead to the suppression of recombination and segregation and, in turn, weakened natural selection, allowing for the accumulation of slightly deleterious mutations. We tested this prediction by estimating the dN/dS ratios in asexual vertebrate lineages in the genus Aspidoscelis using whole mitochondrial genomes from seven asexual and five sexual species. We found higher dN/dS ratios in asexual Aspidoscelis species, indicating that asexual whiptails accumulate non-synonymous substitutions due to weaker purifying selection. Additionally, we estimated nucleotide diversity and found that asexuals harbor significantly less diversity. Thus, despite their recent origins, slightly deleterious mutations accumulated rapidly enough in asexual lineages to be detected. We provided empirical evidence to corroborate the connection between asexuality and increased amino acid substitutions in asexual vertebrate lineages.