By: April Carson
An ancient species of beetle has been found to have survived without having sex, according to researchers.
According to a press release from the University of Cologne, the Oppiella nova is a species of female "ancient asexual" beetle mite that is all female. Despite the fact that they do not have sex, scientists have struggled to understand how the creatures breed and survive for years. They once thought that beetle mites might produce a reproductive male by accident (a la "Jurassic Park"). However, new research has found that the beetle mites use a parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, to create genetic clones of themselves.
They've finally solved the riddle: beetles can duplicate themselves. The team found that the beetles have a "genital opening" that leads to an internal sac. This sac is full of eggs, which the beetle can lay without having to mate.
While this might seem like good news for anyone who's bad at flirting, it's actually not great for the creatures themselves. Because they don't have sex, they're more likely to suffer from genetic defects. In fact, the scientists believe that this is why the Oppiella nova is currently only found in one place on Earth: a single hot spring in New Zealand.
The researchers believe that the species could be extinct within 100 years if their habitat continues to decline.
The Meselson Effect
Unlike humans, who usually just masturbate, the ancient beetle instead creates copies of itself.
It turns out that O. nova may generate genetically unique forms via the "Meselson effect," a function named after Nobel Laureate Sydney R. Meselson. This allows the bug to create distinct copies of its DNA with varied changes, according to the research.
The Meselson Effect is named after Matthew Meselson, who was the first to observe it. In short, it's the idea that asexual reproduction leads to genetic defects.
Meselson looked at a species of water flea that reproduced asexually. He found that over time, the population became increasingly genetically homozygous. In other words, they became more and more alike.
This is the first time scientists have been able to observe and study the Meselson effect. The researchers published a paper in PNAS describing their findings.
"That may appear to be so easy. But, until now, the Meselson effect has never been thoroughly demonstrated in animals — until now," Tanja Schwander, one of the study's co-authors, said in a press release.
The team used a new technique to study the water fleas. They took advantage of the fact that the creatures are transparent. This allowed the researchers to track changes in the animals' DNA over time.
The findings could have implications for our understanding of evolution. "This is an important step forward in our understanding of how species evolve," Schwander said.
While extremely unusual, creatures that can live without sexual reproduction do exist in the wild. Researchers discovered a titanic UFO-shaped sea creature with hundreds of millions of clones just last year.
The study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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