leading to the extinction of the species in the long run. Another hypothesis establishes that because asexual reproduction limits genetic diversity in species, animals end up being unable to adapt to changes in the environment. These theories, however, do not hold in the case of theAmazon molly (Poecilia Formosa), an entirely female species of fish that has thrived for millennia in the fresh waters of the Texas-Mexico border. To better understand how the reproduction of this fish deviates from the norm, an international team of scientists has sequenced the first genome of the Amazon molly and the genomes of the original species that converged on this unique fish. Their findings suggest that the existence of the species is not totally unexpected since they saw that it has a low genetic makeup, rare to see in nature, and that it provides animals with some benefits related to survival.
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The results of this research have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution , and among its authors are Raquel García Pérez , a researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Peru Email List Biology (IBE), and Tomás Marqués-Bonet, ICREA research professor at UPF and director of the same institute. The Amazon molly was the first asexual vertebrate, discovered in 1932. It reproduces by “mating” with a male fish of a related species. The male’s DNA, however, is not incorporated into the offspring. Instead, mating with the male fish triggers the replication of the entire maternal genome. In essence, the mollies clone themselves. They do not lay eggs, but instead give birth to large young. Researchers have long theorized that clones, by not purging harmful mutations, should experience deterioration in the genome and consequently lead to extinction over the generations.
They have discovered that the Amazon molly is the result of a sexual reproduction event that involved two different species of fish between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, the Atlantic molly and the Sailfin molly. Since then, the resulting Amazon molly has been a hybrid species that has been evolutionarily frozen in a remarkable way, and continues to thrive even now. “The Amazonian molly has few harmful mutations, low levels of genetic breakdown and a unique and constantly evolving variability, especially the genes related to the immune system”, explains Raquel García Pérez. “These characteristics could explain the evolutionary success of the species.”The researcher Cecilia García Campos has led a study by the Dental Anthropology Group of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) which has just been published in