Clonal polymorphism and high heterozygosity in the celibate genome of the Amazon molly

Wesley C. Warren, Raquel García-Pérez, Sen Xu, Kathrin P. Lampert, Domitille Chalopin, Matthias Stöck, Laurence Loewe, Yuan Lu, Lukas Kuderna, Patrick Minx, Michael J. Montague, Chad Tomlinson, Ladeana W. Hillier, Daniel N. Murphy, John Wang, Zhongwei Wang, Constantino Macias Garcia, Gregg C.W. Thomas, Jean Nicolas Volff, Fabiana FariasBronwen Aken, Ronald B. Walter, Kim D. Pruitt, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Matthew W. Hahn, Susanne Kneitz, Michael Lynch, Manfred Schartl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The extreme rarity of asexual vertebrates in nature is generally explained by genomic decay due to absence of meiotic recombination, thus leading to extinction of such lineages. We explore features of a vertebrate asexual genome, the Amazon molly, Poecilia formosa, and find few signs of genetic degeneration but unique genetic variability and ongoing evolution. We uncovered a substantial clonal polymorphism and, as a conserved feature from its interspecific hybrid origin, a 10-fold higher heterozygosity than in the sexual parental species. These characteristics seem to be a principal reason for the unpredicted fitness of this asexual vertebrate. Our data suggest that asexual vertebrate lineages are scarce not because they are at a disadvantage, but because the genomic combinations required to bypass meiosis and to make up a functioning hybrid genome are rarely met in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-679
Number of pages11
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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