Making offspring is one of the fundamental aspects of how life has changed, flourished, and gone extinct over time. As humans, we tend to think about reproduction only from our own perspective, and while sexual reproduction is common among animals, there are many alternative solutions to how organisms successfully pass on their genetic material to the next generation. Sometimes these solutions include two sexes, one sex, or even one individual with two sexes. Sometimes they include borrowing the genes from completely different species!
Scientists around the world investigate these outliers in order to understand how certain animals persist without sexual reproduction. By studying animals that go against the reproductive status quo, we can learn more about the ways that sex has shaped our own human biology, from the efficiency of our immune systems to the harmony between the genes inherited from our parents.
Our video gives some quick examples of animals that display “weird sex”, but offers only a sample of the dizzying diversity of evolution’s solutions to reproduction. Thankfully, talented scientists across the globe are asking fascinating questions about these animals. For more information, check out some of these researchers:
Dr. Peter Baumann – Stowers Institute, USA
Dr. Hanna Kokko – University of Zurich, Switzerland
Dr. Timothy Y. James – University of Michigan, USA
Dr. Dunja Lamatsch – University of Innsbruck, Austria
Dr. Curt Lively – Indiana University, USA
Dr. Stephanie Meirmans – Leiden University, Netherlands
Dr. Levi Morran – Emory University, USA
Dr. Maurine Neiman – University of Iowa, USA
Dr. Isa Schön – Royal Institute of Natural Sciences, University of Hasselt, Belgium
Dr. Tanja Schwander – Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
Dr. Christopher Wilson – Imperial College London, UK
Are you an educator interesting in teaching students about the wide world of reproductive diversity? Feel free to use any of the infographics from this project here. I’d love to help develop activities for your classroom, so feel free to contact me!