Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of procbThe Royal Society PublishingProceedings BAboutBrowse by SubjectAlertsFree Trial
Proc Biol Sci. 2001 November 22; 268(1483): 2291–2299.
PMCID: PMC1088879

Multiple routes to asexuality in an aphid species.


Cyclical parthenogens, including aphids, are important models for studying the evolution of sex. However, little is known about transitions to asexuality in aphids, although the mode of origin of asexual lineages has important consequences for their level of genetic diversity, ecological adaptability and the outcome of competition with their sexual relatives. Thus, we surveyed nuclear, mitochondrial and biological data obtained on cyclical and obligate parthenogens of the bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi (L), to investigate the frequency of transitions from sexuality to permanent asexuality. Many instances of asexual lineages retaining the ability to produce males are known in aphids, so particular attention was paid to the existence of occasional matings between females from sexual lineages and males produced by asexual lineages, which have the potential to produce new asexual lineages. Phylogenetic inference based on microsatellite and mitochondrial data indicates at least three independent origins of asexuality in R. padi, yielding the strongest evidence to date for multiple origins of asexuality in an aphid. Moreover, several lines of evidence demonstrate that transitions to asexuality result from two mechanisms: a complete spontaneous loss of sex and repeated gene flow from essentially asexual lineages into sexual ones.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (842K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Barton NH, Charlesworth B. Why sex and recombination? Science. 1998 Sep 25;281(5385):1986–1990. [PubMed]
  • Birky CW., Jr Heterozygosity, heteromorphy, and phylogenetic trees in asexual eukaryotes. Genetics. 1996 Sep;144(1):427–437. [PubMed]
  • Chakraborty R, Jin L. A unified approach to study hypervariable polymorphisms: statistical considerations of determining relatedness and population distances. EXS. 1993;67:153–175. [PubMed]
  • Cornuet JM, Piry S, Luikart G, Estoup A, Solignac M. New methods employing multilocus genotypes to select or exclude populations as origins of individuals. Genetics. 1999 Dec;153(4):1989–2000. [PubMed]
  • Howard RS, Lively CM. Parasitism, mutation accumulation and the maintenance of sex. Nature. 1994 Feb 10;367(6463):554–557. [PubMed]
  • Kondrashov AS. Classification of hypotheses on the advantage of amphimixis. J Hered. 1993 Sep-Oct;84(5):372–387. [PubMed]
  • Plantard O, Rasplus J-Y, Mondor G, Clainche I Le, Solignac M. Wolbachia-induced thelytoky in the rose gallwasp Diplolepis spinosissimae (Giraud) (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae), and its consequences on the genetic structure of its host. Proc Biol Sci. 1998 Jun 22;265(1401):1075–1080. [PMC free article]
  • Rispe C, Pierre JS. Coexistence between cyclical parthenogens, obligate parthenogens, and intermediates in a fluctuating environment . J Theor Biol. 1998 Nov 7;195(1):97–110. [PubMed]
  • Saitou N, Nei M. The neighbor-joining method: a new method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Mol Biol Evol. 1987 Jul;4(4):406–425. [PubMed]
  • Simon JC, Martinez-Torres D, Latorre A, Moya A, Hebert PD. Molecular characterization of cyclic and obligate parthenogens in the aphid Rhopalosiphum padi (L.). Proc Biol Sci. 1996 Apr 22;263(1369):481–486. [PubMed]
  • Simon JC, Leterme N, Latorre A. Molecular markers linked to breeding system differences in segregating and natural populations of the cereal aphid Rhopalosiphum padi L. Mol Ecol. 1999 Jun;8(6):965–973. [PubMed]
  • Stouthamer R, Breeuwert JA, Luck RF, Werren JH. Molecular identification of microorganisms associated with parthenogenesis. Nature. 1993 Jan 7;361(6407):66–68. [PubMed]
  • Sunnucks P, De Barro PJ, Lushai G, Maclean N, Hales D. Genetic structure of an aphid studied using microsatellites: cyclic parthenogenesis, differentiated lineages and host specialization. Mol Ecol. 1997 Nov;6(11):1059–1073. [PubMed]
  • Via S, Bouck AC, Skillman S. Reproductive isolation between divergent races of pea aphids on two hosts. II. Selection against migrants and hybrids in the parental environments. Evolution. 2000 Oct;54(5):1626–1637. [PubMed]
  • Vrijenhoek RC. Coexistence of clones in a heterogeneous environment. Science. 1978 Feb 3;199(4328):549–552. [PubMed]
  • Mark Welch D, Meselson M. Evidence for the evolution of bdelloid rotifers without sexual reproduction or genetic exchange. Science. 2000 May 19;288(5469):1211–1215. [PubMed]
  • West SA, Cook JM, Werren JH, Godfray HC. Wolbachia in two insect host-parasitoid communities. Mol Ecol. 1998 Nov;7(11):1457–1465. [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society