This material is published by the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2005, vol 85, pp 111-123).

Resource competition between genetically varied and genetically uniform populations of Daphnia pulex (Leydig): does sexual reproduction confer a short-term ecological advantage?

Nikki Tagg, C. Patrick Doncaster and David J. Innes

Small competitive advantages may suffice to compensate for a large disadvantage in intrinsic growth capacity. This well-known principle from ecology has recently been applied to the enduring question of how sexual reproduction can persist in the face of invasion by female-only parthenogens. Small competitive advantages resulting directly from sexual reproduction are predicted to cancel a two-fold disadvantage in intrinsic growth capacity caused by males (which do not themselves produce offspring) comprising half the sexual population. In this paper we test the principal assumption of this theory, that the genetic variation produced by sexual reproduction confers a competitive advantage over self-identical asexual invaders. We set up competition between a diverse clonal assembly of Daphnia pulex and genetically uniform populations from single clones. At young ages, the population comprising genetically varied Daphnia had significantly higher birth rates in competition with populations of genetically uniform Daphnia than in competition with itself, indicating competitive release and a Lotka-Volterra competition coefficient α12 < 1. No such difference was apparent under conditions of greater food stress, possibly due to individuals channelling more energy into survival, or for old-aged populations, possibly as a result of reduced selective pressures for high reproduction in old females. Mean birth rates differed between the clones at all ages in the presence of competition, providing evidence of variation in life history traits between clones. A Lotka-Volterra model predicted empirical estimates of α12 = 0.896 (genetically uniform on varied) and α21 = 1.010 (varied on uniform), which permits immediate coexistence of a sexual population of D. pulex even with an asexual lineage having twice the intrinsic growth capacity.

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