Considerable work in evolutionary biology has focused on the question of why sex persists. Both advantages to sex and constraints limiting a return to asexual reproduction are hypothesized to maintain sex once it evolves. Developmental constraints would limit asexual reproduction from a sexual species if it were difficult for females to switch from making eggs that do not develop without fertilization to making zygotes that are capable of developing in the absence of fertilization. Nauphoeta cinerea is an ovoviviparous cockroach in which some females are capable of switching from a sexual mode of reproduction to an asexual mode when isolated from males. Yet, while facultative parthenogenesis can occur in individuals, few females make the switch. Thus, this cockroach provides an ideal system for examining the potential role of developmental constraints in maintaining sex. Here we compare the cytogenetics and embryonic development of sexual and parthenogenetic offspring in N. cinerea. We find that deviations from normal ploidy levels are associated with abnormal development. All viable N. cinerea embryos exhibit typically hemimetabolous insect embryogenesis. Although there is no variation among embryos in development within a sexually produced clutch, we see extreme variation in asexually derived clutches. These results suggest that developmental constraints limit the success of asexual reproduction in this facultatively parthenogenetic cockroach. Our data further suggest that the specific constraint occurs in the switch from a meiotic mode of reproduction requiring fertilization to diploid zygotes that develop in the absence of fertilization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Developmental Biology