Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 127-143

First online:

The ‘paradox’ of polyembryony: A review of the cases and a hypothesis for its evolution

  • SEAN F. CraigAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • , LAWRENCE B. Slobodkin
  • , GREGORY A. Wray
  • , CHRISTIANE H. Biermann

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Animal polyembryony appears to be paradoxical because it clones an unproven genotype at the expense of genetic diversity in a clutch. However, it is employed by at least 18 taxa in six phyla (excluding instances of occasional twinning). Most polyembryony occurs in parasitic stages or in other environments whose quality is not predictable by the mother; in some instances, it compensates for a constraint on zygote number. We predict that polyembryony is likely to evolve when the offspring has more information regarding optimal clutch size than the parents.

asexual reproduction clonal reproduction clutch size environmental predictability life history evolution parasites parasitoids polyembryony