Why Evolution Is True

Here’s the second “unanswered question of evolutionary biology” that I discussed in my BBC Focus piece (#1 is here).  This one appears only in print, so I’ll put my answer online.

Why is there sex? It’s possible to reproduce without sex: many species do it, including microorganisms, lizards, fish, and plants. In fact, it turns out that reproducing asexually has a big evolutionary advantage.  Imagine that each human couple can leave two offspring: on average one male and one female. If a female had a mutation that allowed her to reproduce asexually, she would have a tremendous evolutionary advantage. In the next generation, such asexual females would produce two females instead of one, meaning that our asexual females would effectively have double the reproductive rate of their sexual neighbors. Sexual females (and their male offspring) would therefore eventually be crowded out. This disadvantage of sexuality is often called the…

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