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Open Access Research article

Population dynamics with a mixed type of sexual and asexual reproduction in a fluctuating environment

Roberto Barbuti1, Selma Mautner2, Giorgio Carnevale3, Paolo Milazzo1, Aureliano Rama1* and Christian Sturmbauer2

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Informatica, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy

2 Institut für Zoologie, Karl-Franzens Universität, Graz, Austria

3 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2012, 12:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-49

Published: 10 April 2012

Abstract

Background

Carassius gibelio, a cyprinid fish from Eurasia, has the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. This fish is also known as an invasive species which colonized almost all continental Europe, most likely originating from Asia and Eastern Europe. Populations of both sexually and asexually reproducing individuals exist in sympatry. In this study we try to elucidate the advantages of such a mixed type of reproduction. We investigate the dynamics of two sympatric populations with sexual and asexual reproduction in a periodically fluctuating environment. We define an individual-based computational model in which genotypes are represented by L loci, and the environment is composed of L resources for which the two populations compete.

Results

Our model demonstrates advantageous population dynamics where the optimal percentage of asexual reproduction depends on selection strength, on the number of selected loci and on the timescale of environmental fluctuations. We show that the sexual reproduction is necessary for "generating" fit genotypes, while the asexual reproduction is suitable for "amplifying" them. The simulations show that the optimal percentage of asexual reproduction increases with the length of the environment stability period and decrease with the strength of the selection and the number of loci.

Conclusions

In this paper we addressed the advantages of a mixed type of sexual and asexual reproduction in a changing environment and explored the idea that a species that is able to adapt itself to environmental fluctuation can easily colonize a new habitat. Our results could provide a possible explanation for the rapid and efficient invasion of species with a variable ratio of sexual and asexual reproduction such as Carassius gibelio.