A mixability theory for the role of sex in evolution

Adi Livnat, Christos Papadimitriou, Jonathan Dushoff, Marcus W. Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The question of what role sex plays in evolution is still open despite decades of research. It has often been assumed that sex should facilitate the increase in fitness. Hence, the fact that it may break down highly favorable genetic combinations has been seen as a problem. Here, we consider an alternative approach. We define a measure that represents the ability of alleles to perform well across different combinations and, using numerical iterations within a classical population-genetic framework, show that selection in the presence of sex favors this ability in a highly robust manner. We also show that the mechanism responsible for this effect has been out of the purview of previous theory, because it operates during the evolutionary transient, and that the breaking down of favorable genetic combinations is an integral part of it. Implications of these results and more to evolutionary theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19803-19808
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Epistasis
  • Evolvability
  • Fitness robustness
  • Modularity
  • Recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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