Why Males Exist

Tribolium castaneum, the flour beetle used in the experiment. Image: Public Domain/Wikimedia
Males: who needs them? It’s a valid question—the existence of the male sex is a real scientific inquiry.

By Victoria Turk|MOTHERBOARD

On a survival-of-the-species level, males are basically only needed to provide sperm. In light of that, sex seems like a pretty inefficient way of reproducing in comparison to asexual reproduction. Half the offspring produced are also incapable of directly bearing future generations, and parents have to dilute their genes for the pleasure. Not to mention the hassle of finding a suitable mate in the first place.

So why has evolution allowed two-parent reproduction to persist when it seems so inefficient? Why is sex still a thing? Why don’t we just have females who can reproduce by themselves?

In a paper in Nature, biologists suggest a solution to the mystery: the existence of males and of sex allows for sexual selection, which helps keep a species healthy so it doesn’t go extinct. They tested their hypothesis in populations of beetles.

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