This material has been published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology (2004, vol 229, pp 559-572), the only definitive repository of the content that has been certified and accepted after peer review. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by Elsevier. This material may not be copied or reposted without explicit permission (Copyright 2004 by Elsevier).

Population models of sperm-dependent parthenogenesis

David Schley, C. Patrick Doncaster and Tim Sluckin

Organisms that reproduce by sperm-dependent parthenogenesis are asexual clones that require sperm of a sexual host to initiate egg production, without the genome of the sperm contributing genetic information to the zygote. Although sperm-dependent parthenogenesis has some of the disadvantages of sex (requiring a mate) without the counterbalancing advantages (mixing of parental genotypes), it appears amongst a wide variety of species. We develop initial models for the density dependent dynamics of animal populations with sperm-dependent parthenogenesis (pseudogamy or gynogenesis), based on the known biology of the common Enchytraeid worm Lumbricillus lineatus. Its sperm-dependent parthenogenetic populations are reproductive parasites of the hermaphrodite sexual form. Our logistic models reveal two alternative requirements for coexistence at density-dependent equilibria: (i) If the two forms differ in competitive ability, the form with the lower intrinsic birth rate must be compensated by a more than proportionately lower competitive impact from the other, relative to intraspecific competition. (ii) If the two forms differ in their intrinsic capacity to exploit resources, the sperm-dependent parthenogen must be superior in this respect and must have a lower intrinsic birth rate. In general for crowded environments we expect a sperm-dependent parthenogen to compete strongly for limiting resources with the sexual sibling species. Its competitive impact is likely to be weakened by its genetic uniformity, however, and this may suffice to cancel any advantage of higher intrinsic growth rate obtained from reproductive investment only in egg production. We discuss likely thresholds of coexistence for other sperm-dependent parthenogens. The fish Poeciliopsis monacha-lucida likewise obtains an intrinsic growth advantage from reduced investment in male gametes, and so its persistence is likely to depend on it being a poor competitor. The planarian Schmidtea polychroa obtains no such intrinsic benefit because it produces fertile sperm, and its persistence may depend on superior resource exploitation.

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