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A current controversy within evolutionary biology relates to the timing of and drivers behind the origin of sex. This is a particularly contentious area in which various theoretical models, including mutation accumulation, recombination and sexual selection, have been proposed to explain how and why sexual reproduction evolved (Bell 1982; Barton & Charlesworth 1998; Rice & Chippindale 2001). In this essay, I will review two papers from 2018 that take opposing positions on this matter.

The first paper is entitled “The Timing and Drivers of Sex Origin” by Dirk Eibrink et al. (2018). This paper provides an overview of the existing theories for the origin and maintenance of sex in eukaryotes. The authors note that while there are many potential explanations for the evolution of sex, all must be considered within an ecological context, as it is unlikely that one single factor explains its emergence. The authors also hypothesize that environmental conditions play an important role in determining whether or not a species adopts asexual or sexual reproduction. Their conclusion is that no single model can explain the complex dynamics involved in the evolution of sex and multiple factors likely contribute to its emergence.

The second paper is entitled “Sex Did Not Originate as Adaptation to Stressful Environments: A Rebuttal to Eibrink et al” by David Gokhman et al (2018). Here, the authors provide evidence from experimental studies indicating that sexual reproduction predates stressful environments and was likely present even before eukaryotic organisms began utilizing oxygen-rich habitats for respiration. They argue against a key argument presented by Eibrink et al., namely that stressful environments may be essential for driving adaptation via processes such as genetic recombination due to their ability to reduce fitness plateaus associated with clonal populations (Eibrink et al 2018). Gokhman et al conclude that although environmental stressors can undoubtedly serve as selective agents favoring sexually reproducing lineages over their asexual counterparts, they were not necessary precursors for sex origin itself but rather played a more minor role than suggested by previous theories concerning this issue.

In summary, these two papers discuss different points-of-view on when exactly sex originated and what factors drove its original emergence throughout evolutionary history. While both papers make valid arguments based on available scientific evidence about how stress can shape species’ reproductive strategies today, there still remains significant disagreement over whether or not it was responsible for initiating sexual reproduction long ago in ancestral lineages prior to other events such as increased oxygen availability during early Earth’s history or increases in population size among prokaryotic organisms around 3 billion years ago (Grosberg 2012; Bell 1982; Maynard Smith 1976). As such further research into this topic is needed before any conclusions can be drawn regarding which model best explains how sexual reproduction originally arose amongst species living millions of years ago

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