Parthenogenesis and the Evolution of Anisogamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently, it was pointed out [1] that classic models for the evolution of anisogamy do not take into account the possibility of parthenogenetic reproduction, even though sex is facultative in many relevant taxa (e.g. algae) that harbour both anisogamous and isogamous species. Here we complement the analysis of [1] with an approach where we assume that the relationship between progeny size and its survival may differ between parthenogenetically and sexually produced progeny, favouring either the former or the latter. We show that the findings of [1], that parthenogenesis can stabilise isogamy relative to the obligate sex case, extend to our scenarios. We additionally investigate two different ways for one mating type to take over the entire population. First, parthenogenesis can lead to biased sex ratios that are sufficiently extreme that one type can displace the other, leading to de facto asexuality for the remaining type that now lacks partners to fuse with. This process involves positive feedback: microgametes, being numerous, lack opportunities for syngamy, and should they proliferate parthenogenetically, the next generation makes this asexual route even more prominent for microgametes. Second, we consider mutations to strict asexuality in producers of micro- or macrogametes, and show that the prospects of asexual invasion depend strongly on the mating type in which the mutation arises. Perhaps most interestingly, we also find scenarios in which parthenogens have an intrinsic survival advantage yet facultatively sexual isogamous populations are robust to the invasion of asexuals, despite us assuming no genetic benefits of recombination. Here equal contribution from both mating types to zygotes that are sufficiently well provisioned to outweigh the additional costs associated with syngamy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2467
Number of pages28
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2021


  • Anisogamy
  • Isogamy
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Facultative Sex
  • Adult sex ratio

Cite this