Despite many decades of research, it remains unclear why most animals can reproduce only via sex, and lack the potentially advantageous ability to switch to asexual reproduction in suitable conditions. An exciting new hypothesis proposes that sexual conflict—i.e., the presence of coercive males—could hold a key to this long-standing paradox.
The unusual reproductive system of Phasmid (“stick”) insects – which produce both sons and daughters from fertilised eggs but only daughters from unfertilised eggs – makes it possible to directly observe the role of males in promoting sexual reproduction. The Bonduriansky lab is exploring the sexual conflict hypothesis through lab- and field-based empirical work on these interesting animals, and through the development of new theory.
Our current research focuses on natural populations of stick insects, where we have discovered a fascinating spatial mosaic of sexual and asexual populations existing in close proximity. We are investigating the role of sexual conflict in the establishment and maintenance of such asexual populations.
Students interested in joining the Bonduriansky lab and taking part in this research should contact Russell Bonduriansky (firstname.lastname@example.org).