Evol Ecol Res 11: 43-55 (2009)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Asexual species of oribatid mites do not have a local-scale colonization advantage over sexual species

Jennifer M. Cianciolo

Biology Department, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Correspondence: J.M. Cianciolo, Biology Department, Indiana University, 1001 East 3rd Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
e-mail: jciancio@indiana.edu


Hypothesis: Asexual species have a colonization advantage relative to sexual species. Such an advantage may allow asexuals to escape from local-scale selection pressures, such as those from competition with sexual species, and permit co-existence of the two reproductive modes.

Organisms: Species of soil mites in the suborder Oribatida with one of three reproductive types: ancient asexual, recent asexual or sexual. Taxonomic relationships indicate that these are likely to be close competitors.

Methods: Small colonizable enclosures, representing both new and defaunated habitat, were placed in a temperate forest and sampled, together with soil cores representing the surrounding habitat, at 2-month intervals over 2 years. Binary logistic regression was used to determine whether mites have a colonization advantage, defined as having a higher prevalence in colonized litter bags than in nearby source soil cores.

Results: Only the most abundant of 17 recent asexual species was found to have a colonization advantage; the rest were the poorest colonizers. Ancient asexuals had moderate colonization rates and sexual species the highest colonization rates. This pattern is opposite to the prediction that asexuals have a colonization advantage.

Keywords: colonization advantage, competition, maintenance of sexual reproduction.

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