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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sticks insects survive one million years without sex

Next time you see a "stick insect", take a good look at it! It's a special living thing. Why? Read the story BBC below by reporter,

Stick insects have lived for one million years without sex, genetic research has revealed.

Scientists in Canada investigated the DNA of Timema stick insects, which live in shrubland around the west coast of the US.

They traced the ancient lineages of two species to reveal the insects' lengthy history of asexual reproduction.

The discovery could help researchers understand how life without sex is possible.

Asexuality does not always result in the rapid extinction of a lineage”
Dr Tanja Schwander Simon Fraser University, Canada

Scientists from Simon Fraser University, Canada, published their results in the journal Current Biology.
Certain species of Timema stick insects were known to reproduce asexually, with females producing young in "virgin births" without the need for egg fertilisation by males.

TDr Tanja Schwander and her team set out to test how old these species were, and therefore to find out how long they had reproduced in this way.

By analysing the DNA of the insects, scientists were able to trace back their lineages to identify when they became a distinct species.

The team discovered that five of the asexual stick insects were "ancient", dating back more than 500,000 years. Two of them were even older.
Timema genevievae (c) Bart Zijlstra Timema genevievae is a female-only species of stick insect

"All the evidence points to Timema tahoe and Timema genevievae having persisted for over one million years without sex," Dr Schwander told BBC Nature.

"Our research adds to the growing amount of evidence that asexuality does not always result in the rapid extinction of a lineage," she said. he insects instead produce genetic clones of themselves.

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