Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex: It's Costly But Worth It. Just Ask A Microbe

Date:
February 8, 2006
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
Microbes were assumed to be asexual organisms, but a study shows that they also produce offspring when they mate with other microbes. When mating with other microbes, however, a fair bit of flirting and fluffing goes on in their mating ritual, which draws on the microbe's energy reserves, and ultimately affects the quality of their offspring.

The next time you mutter about the high cost of relationship maintenance, take comfort in knowing that microbes share your pain. In the first study to examine the cost of sexuality in microbes, Jianping Xu, associate professor of biology at McMaster University, found that sex exacts physical, morphological and behavioural stress on microbes. His findings are published in the recent edition of Genetics, published by the Genetics Society of America.

"There was always an assumption that microbes reproduce asexually, but they are actually asexual and sexual," says Xu. Using a fungus that has two sexes, A and Alpha, he established three populations: A microbes (females), Alpha microbes (males), and a combination of the two. When left to re-produce on their own, the first two groups of microbes performed efficiently and prolifically. The microbe couples, however, were slower to reproduce. But Xu also found that a fair bit of fluffing and flirting goes on when mixed pairs slide into a petri dish, and the results can be detrimental to their fitness.

"We noticed that mating stunted their asexual reproduction because each partner spent more time attracting the other than nourishing its own growth," explains Xu. "Transmitting mating signals costs both partners: one partner uses up materials and energy to produce and transmit the signal, and the other partner gets distracted by the mating signal and loses interest in reproducing on its own."

The irony is that despite the high cost of sex there are benefits.

"In many microbes, mating and sexual reproduction produce genetically diverse and hardy progeny better able to withstand environmental changes, inhospitable conditions, lack of water, extreme temperatures and fewer nutrients," says Xu.

There may be other benefits, too. "Every time DNA replicates and the microbes reproduce, mutations are introduced. While some mutations may be beneficial, most have no effect or are deleterious," says Xu. "Through mating and sexual reproduction, mutations accumulated in different strains are brought together so that deleterious ones are purged more efficiently, and the beneficial ones are brought together to produce fitter offspring."

As Xu found out, some of those mutations reduced the cost of interacting with sexual partners. The downside is that the same mutations can also reduce their mating ability. "There is some kind of balance out there between the cost and benefit of sex," says Xu. "And we are looking into that right now".

###

Funding for this study was provided in part by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Sex: It's Costly But Worth It. Just Ask A Microbe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060208162553.htm>.
McMaster University. (2006, February 8). Sex: It's Costly But Worth It. Just Ask A Microbe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060208162553.htm
McMaster University. "Sex: It's Costly But Worth It. Just Ask A Microbe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060208162553.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins