Through the looking glass | host-parasite coevolution and sex Event as iCalendar

11 February 2019

1 - 2pm

Venue: Mac 1 Biology Building

Location: 5 Symonds St

Host: SBS

Contact info: Dr Kristal Cain

Contact email:

Distinguished Professor Curtis M Lively
Distinguished Professor Curtis M Lively

Speaker: Distinguished Professor Curtis M Lively, Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University Bloomington, USA

Why do males exist? The most common answer is that males are needed for reproduction; but that is not true for many species of both plants and animals. Why, then, is Earth not dominated by clonally reproducing females? Surely cloning is a more efficient way to reproduce. Why, in general, is there sex? The question has been raised by many prominent evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, but the answer remains elusive.

In this talk Professor Curtis Lively will present 30-plus years of research on ‘why sex?’, which has been focused on a common species of New Zealand snail. The snail is unique in that sexual and asexual females coexist in many lakes and streams, especially on the South Island. This begs the question, why don’t the clonal females replace the sexual females? In other words, what is the advantage of sex?  

Professor Lively will highlight the Red Queen Hypothesis, which posits that parasites select against successful clonal lineages, once they become common in the population. Hence there is an advantage to sex that stems from the production of genetically variable progeny, some of which may escape infection. The basic idea relates directly to other challenges in biology (for example, why be choosy about a mate?), as well as conservation biology (what are the risks to small, inbred populations?), and agriculture (why plant diverse crops?).  

For more information please contact Dr Kristal Cain.