Mutational load depends not only on the number and nature of mutations but also on the reproductive mode. Traditionally, only a few specific reproductive modes are considered in the search of explanations for the maintenance of sex. There are, however, many alternatives. Including these may give radically different conclusions. The theory on deterministic deleterious mutations states that in large populations segregation and recombination may lead to a lower load of deleterious mutations, provided that there are synergistic interactions. Empirical research suggests that effects of deleterious mutations are often multiplicative. Such situations have largely been ignored in the literature, since recombination and segregation have no effect on mutation load in the absence of epistasis. However, this is true only when clonal reproduction and sexual reproduction with equal male and female ploidy are considered. We consider several alternative reproductive modes that are all known to occur in insects: arrhenotoky, paternal genome elimination, apomictic thelytoky, and automictic thelytoky with different cytological mechanisms to restore diploidy. We give a method that is based on probability-generating functions, which provides analytical and numerical results on the distributions of deleterious mutations. Using this, we show that segregation and recombination do make a difference. Furthermore, we prove that a modified form of Haldane’s principle holds more generally for thelytokous reproduction. We discuss the implications of our results for evolutionary transitions between different reproductive modes in insects. Since the strength of Muller’s ratchet is reduced considerably for several forms of automictic thelytoky, many of our results are expected to be also valid for initially small populations.
- Received June 6, 2003.
- Accepted October 20, 2003.
- Copyright © 2004 by the Genetics Society of America