Multidimensional epistasis and the transitory advantage of sex

Multidimensional epistasis and the transitory advantage of sex

Stefan Nowak, Johannes Neidhart, Ivan G. Szendro, Joachim Krug
(Submitted on 25 Mar 2014)

Identifying and quantifying the benefits of sex and recombination is a long standing problem in evolutionary theory. In particular, contradictory claims have been made about the existence of a benefit of recombination on high dimensional fitness landscapes in the presence of sign epistasis. Here we present a comparative numerical study of sexual and asexual evolutionary dynamics on tunably rugged model landscapes, paying special attention to the temporal development of the evolutionary advantage of recombination and the link between population diversity and the rate of adaptation. We show that the adaptive advantage of recombination on static rugged landscapes is strictly transitory. At early times an advantage of recombination through the Fisher-Muller effect is generally observed, but this effect is reversed at longer times by the much more efficient trapping of recombining populations at local fitness peaks. These findings are explained by means of well established results for a setup with only two loci. In accordance with the Red Queen hypothesis the transitory advantage can be prolonged indefinitely in fluctuating environments, and it is maximal when the environment fluctuates on the same time scale on which trapping at local optima typically occurs.

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