Science Cafe: Best of both worlds: sex, parasites and genetic diversity

The Swansea Science Cafe offers opportunities to find out more about new, exciting and topical areas of science in an informal and entertaining way.

‌The Swansea Science Cafe offers opportunities to find out more about new, exciting and topical areas of science in an informal and entertaining way.

Mangrove Killifish hermaphroditeTitle: Best of both worlds: sex, parasites and genetic diversity

Speaker: Professor Sofia Consuegra, Swansea University

Date: Wednesday 29th March

Time: 7:30pm

Venue: National Waterfront Museum, Swansea

                                                                                Admission: Free, all welcome

‌In this talk Professor Consuegra, will discuss one the central premises of biology, which is that sex is advantageous because it maintains genetic diversity, and that genetically diverse individuals cope better with environmental changes and disease.

However, she will argue that some inbred populations with very low genetic diversity are able to persist and even increase in numbers, challenging the traditional view that low genetic diversity compromises the survival of populations.

Mangrove Killifish maleThe key to understanding this paradox could lie in the tropical mangroves, where a unique self-fertilising fish may hold the answer. Self-fertilisation, which is widely observed in plants but very uncommon in animals, particularly vertebrates, can be seen as the most extreme form of inbreeding. Kryptolebias marmoratus (the mangrove killifish) is one of the only two known vertebrates to self-fertilise.

Populations of this fish consist of self-fertilising hermaphrodites that do not cross-fertilise and coexist with a very small number of males (about 1% of the population). As a consequence, genetic diversity in this fish is particularly low.

Professor Consuegra will explore how this species adapts to environmental change and disease and whether sexual reproduction and genetic diversity are really needed.

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Pictures courtesy of Amy Ellison