, Volume 90, Issue 2-3, pp 269-280

The origin and evolution of parthenogenesis in theHeteronotia binoei complex: Synthesis

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Abstract

TheHeteronotia binoei complex includes several cryptic species of sexually reproducing lizards and parthenogenetic lineages derived from them. This paper synthesizes analyses of distribution and variation of allozymes, chromosomes, mitochondrial DNA and ribosomal DNA genes in order to make inferences about the origins of the parthenogenetic lineages, the extent and source of their genetic diversity, their current and historical biogeography and their ecological properties. The parthenogens appear to have arisen recently (relative to geographic differentiation within the sexual taxa) via episodes of repetitive hybridization between two of the sexual taxa. These events probably occurred within one or two small geographic areas of western Australia, after which some of the parthenogenetic lineages rapidly expanded their ranges to central Australia. The parthenogenetic form has extraordinarily high genetic diversity, mostly derived from the repetitive origins, but with some contribution from mutation and biased gene conversion/recombination being apparent. The rapid and extensive range expansion of the parthenogenetic lineages from western to central Australia attests to the short-term success of this reproductive strategy, in this case perhaps reinforced by the parthenogenetic females having higher fecundity than their smaller sexual relatives. However, the parthenogens are orders of magnitude more susceptible to infection by ectoparasitic mites, suggesting that they could be at a long-term disadvantage. The detailed characterization of this system provides a basis for critical evaluation of hypotheses about the evolutionary advantage of sexual reproduction derived from broad comparative studies.