Sex: The power of randomization

Liudmyla Vasylenko, Marcus W. Feldman, Christos Papadimitriou, Adi Livnat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In evolutionary biology, randomness has been perceived as a force that, in and of itself, is capable of inventing: mutation creates new genetic information at random across the genome which leads to phenotypic change, which is then subject to selection. However, in science in general and in computer science in particular, the widespread use of randomness takes a different form. Here, randomization allows for the breaking of pattern, as seen for example in its removal of biases (patterns) by random sampling or random assignment to conditions. Combined with various forms of evaluation, this breaking of pattern becomes an extraordinarily powerful tool, as also seen in many randomized algorithms in computer science. Here we show that this power of randomness is harnessed in nature by sex and recombination. In a finite population, and under the assumption of interactions between genetic variants, sex and recombination allow selection to test how well an allele will perform in a sample of combinations of interacting genetic partners drawn at random from all possible such combinations; consequently, even a small number of tests of genotypes such as takes place in a finite population favors alleles that will most likely perform well in a vast number of yet unrealized genetic combinations. This power of randomization is not manifest in asexual populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Epistasis
  • Random sampling
  • Randomized algorithms
  • Sex and recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex: The power of randomization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this