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ClonalityThe Genetics, Ecology, and Evolution of Sexual Abstinence in Vertebrate Animals$
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John C. Avise

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195369670

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369670.001.0001

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Clonality in Utero: Polyembryony

Clonality in Utero: Polyembryony

(p.119) CHAPTER FIVE Clonality in Utero: Polyembryony

John C. Avise

Oxford University Press

Polyembryony or “twinning” is an intra-generational rather than an inter-generational form of clonality. It happens when a fertilized egg divides mitotically and splits before initiating the development of two or more clonemate embryos within a brood. Polyembryony occurs sporadically in many species, including humans, but it occurs constitutively in only one vertebrate taxon: Dasypus armadillos. Polyembryony would seem at face value to be an ill-advised reproductive tactic that might be likened to the purchase of multiple lottery tickets with the same number. But several invertebrate species, including parasitic wasps, also engage in polyembryony. Surprisingly, peculiar aspects of the life cycle are shared by armadillos and parasitic wasps, and these give clues as to how polyembryony might be of adaptive significance as an opportunistic tactic in particular kinds of ecological settings.

Keywords:   armadillos, parasitic wasps, twinning, life-cycle

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