Gender and Life

Why don't humans reproduce asexually?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Asexual reproduction is one of the two basic manners in which organisms reproduce, along with sexual reproduction. It's is how the simplest organisms on Earth perpetuate their genes. Organisms that reproduce asexually don't have male and female sexes and only need one individual to reproduce. Bacteria, for example, reproduce asexually, meaning that when a bacterium splits, both halves are exactly the same. This exact copy is called a clone.

    It's a popular approach, and many organisms reproduce asexually. After all, the method does have some benefits. Asexual reproduction requires less time and energy than sexual reproduction, yields more offspring and never gets bogged down in discussions about what to name the children or what color to paint the nursery. However, if a mutation were to occur within an organism's DNA, that mutation is passed directly to the offspring -- there's no chance of any other genes canceling it out. As a result, species that reproduce asexually are at greater risk for defects. Additionally, if the environment changes, every organism in the species will be vulnerable to that change in the same way, whereas a genetically diverse population will have a greater chance of adapting to the changes.

    It's not all bad for the asexually-reproducing world, however. For example, researchers at the University of Gothenburg discovered that animals that clone themselves can activate an enzyme called telomerase that can help them remain in good health by behaving as a protector of their DNA. The enzyme is linked in humans with people who tend to live longer, and in asexually-reproducing animals it has a kind of "rejuvenating" quality, the scientists said [source: Science Daily].

    Humans, meanwhile, having "decided" to reproduce as they do, face some reproductive headwinds of their own. It takes awhile for mating and reproduction to occur, and offspring take a relatively long time to be born. The offspring aren't created at a very high rate either -- just a handful of children per pair of mates. Contrast that with, say, bacteria, which can under the right conditions multiply with lightning speed.

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