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Why do animals sexually reproduce?

Question asked by: knowitall

The answer to this is controversial. As a statement of fact, it appears that nature favours sexual reproduction, in that most successful animals today reproduce sexually, and most lines that have tried it in the past have died out.

Most theories come from the point of view that sexual reproduction ensures that there is diversity in the population - rather than having clones that reproduce asexually and hence maintain an identity relationship, sexual reproduction ensures a constant mixing of genetic material that is likely to result in increased diversity, it is argued.

However, recent thought amongst scientists is now going to the other extreme - that sexual reproduction is actually used as a biological check and balance, to ensure stability. The thought process is this: if one member of a species experiences a mutation, and reproduces asexually, the mutation will persist on and on if the creature reproduces, and you will quickly end up with lots of very different and/or dead members of that species.

However, when you introduce sexual reproduction, that individual must have a mutation that is not "too bad" for that species, else it will either not be successful in finding a mate, or will simply die. Any minor mutations are also quite likely to be ironed out by sexual reproduction, as the genetic material of the child of course comes from both mother and father.

So, whilst it is a matter of hot debate, it actually seems most likely that the answer is that animals reproduce sexually as a check and balance on the chemistry of life - if things go wrong, having two parents contributing genetic material to the child gives you two chances to get things right, rather than just one.

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Question Keywords

reproduce  sexually  animals  

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