Journal Article

Outcrossing and the Maintenance of Males within <i>C. elegans</i> Populations

Jennifer L. Anderson, Levi T. Morran and Patrick C. Phillips

in Journal of Heredity

Volume 101, issue suppl_1, pages S62-S74
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0022-1503
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1465-7333 | DOI:
Outcrossing and the Maintenance of Males within C. elegans Populations

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Caenorhabditis elegans is an androdioecious nematode with both hermaphrodites and males. Although males can potentially play an important role in avoiding inbreeding and facilitating adaptation, their existence is evolutionarily problematic because they do not directly generate offspring in the way that hermaphrodites do. This review explores how genetic, population genomic, and experimental evolution approaches are being used to address the role of males and outcrossing within C. elegans. Although theory suggests that inbreeding depression and male mating ability should be the primary determinants of male frequency, this has yet to be convincingly confirmed experimentally. Genomic analysis of natural populations finds that outcrossing occurs at low, but not negligible levels, and that observed patterns of linkage disequilibrium consistent with strong selfing may instead be generated by natural selection against outcrossed progeny. Recent experimental evolution studies suggest that males can be maintained at fairly high levels if populations are initiated with sufficient genetic variation and/or subjected to strong natural selection via a change in the environment. For example, as reported here, populations adapting to novel laboratory rearing and temperature regimes maintain males at frequencies from 5% to 40%. Laboratory and field results still await full reconciliation, which may be facilitated by identifying the loci underlying among-strain differences in mating system dynamics.

Keywords: androdioecy; experimental evolution; male mating; outbreeding depression; outcrossing; self-fertilization

Journal Article.  9200 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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