A study by the University of Edinburgh has revealed that reproducing sexually, as opposed to asexually, can bring a number of long-term benefits.
Researchers from the university have conducted a study based on the sexual reproduction of tiny fruit flies.
The results suggest that the act of coitus or sex brings long-term benefits and is potentially crucial to the survival of the human race.
Dr Penny Haddrill, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who took part in the study, said: “Throughout the animal kingdom, individuals have to go to a lot of effort to reproduce. This is strong evidence to show that sexual reproduction enables a species to continually adapt and to weed out elements of DNA that would otherwise cause long-term damage.”
When the genes from two parents combine, DNA is randomly shuffled and a new unique individual is formed.
Results indicate that this process removes damaging elements of DNA, which can lead to the development of diseases in later life.
It was also found that when DNA recombination does not occur, harmful DNA accumulates quickly.
Disadvantageous characteristics are passed down and this causes a species to be more susceptible to diseases, making it weaker in the long haul.
Species that reproduce sexually have an advantage over those that use asexual reproduction, as they often die before having a chance to reproduce.
This is particularly relevant in the current age of biotechnology, where scientists are racing to create higher-yielding crops or sweeter tomatoes.
The logic of having genetic diversity is that in the occasion a disease arises the chances are higher that there will be immune individuals that will reproduce and pass on these characteristics to the next individual. This in turn creates a diverse and stronger gene pool for the species.
Artificial selection, however, reduces genetic diversity. Hypothetically speaking, if this concept were applied to all the tomatoes in the world, one disease could have the potential of wiping out the entire species.
The findings provide strong evidence in support of Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the philosophy of natural selection.
The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council supported the study, which was published in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.