Automixis in Artemia: solving a century-old controversy

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Abstract

Parthenogenesis (reproduction through unfertilized eggs) encompasses a variety of reproduction modes with (automixis) or without (apomixis) meiosis. Different modes of automixis have very different genetic and evolutionary consequences but can be particularly difficult to tease apart. In this study, we propose a new method to discriminate different types of automixis from population-level genetic data. We apply this method to diploid Artemia parthenogenetica, a crustacean whose reproductive mode remains controversial despite a century of intensive cytogenetic observations. We focus on A. parthenogenetica from two western Mediterranean populations. We show that they are diploid and that markers remain heterozygous in cultures maintained up to ˜36 generations in the laboratory. Moreover, parallel patterns of population-wide heterozygosity levels between the two natural populations strongly support the conclusion that diploid A. parthenogenetica reproduce by automictic parthenogenesis with central fusion and low, but nonzero recombination. This settles a century-old controversy on Artemia, and, more generally, suggests that many automictic organisms harbour steep within-chromosome gradients of heterozygosity due to a transition from clonal transmission in centromere-proximal regions to a form of inbreeding similar to self-fertilization in centromere-distal regions. Such systems therefore offer a new avenue for contrasting the genomic consequences of asexuality and inbreeding.

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