The main advantage of sexual reproduction is the fact that it introduces genetic variation. Giving new organisms half the genome of each parent means that they will be unique living beings rather than clones of their parents (Miller, n.d.). This random variation gives the species a chance to gain new traits that could improve their chances of survival. Asexual reproduction creates copies of the same organism, essentially eliminating the chance of any improvement between generations.
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Although sexual reproduction has the potential to allow for evolutionary changes, it is far more complicated than the alternative. Asexual reproduction’s primary advantage is the fact that it can be carried out without a mate, which saves a substantial amount of energy that would be required to find a second parent (Advantages and Disadvantages, n.d.). This means that with sufficient resources, the population can start growing without any unnecessary delays.
Sexual reproduction cannot compete with such short-term efficiency, but it compensates for that with higher long-term survivability of the population. Having the same genetic code makes all specimens susceptible to the same diseases, and that can result in the extinction of an entire species (Advantages and Disadvantages, n.d.). The diversification introduced by sexual reproduction is nature’s way of ensuring that in a similar situation, some organisms might be more resistant to the virus.
The inherently higher survivability of the species as a whole also comes with a significant risk, as sexual activity can also spread diseases. In addition to the chance of transmitting an illness between mates, there is also a possibility of infecting the offspring with the same condition (Miller, n.d.). Asexual reproduction eliminates this risk by enabling the healthy specimens to multiply independently without endangering themselves or their breed.
Although sexual reproduction can bring some shortcomings of the parents into the next generation, it tends to favor positive traits. Thanks to the principle of natural selection, organisms with more suitable genetic makeup have a higher chance to survive long enough to find a mate and produce offspring. This means that eventually, the vast majority of the population will have the same advantageous genetic features.
Asexual reproduction does not have nearly as much genetic variability between different generations, but it can also take advantage of natural selection. If an error occurs during the copying of the chromosomes from the parent cell to the daughter cell, the new organism will have a mutation. If the mutation happens to be positive, the specimen can reproduce and achieve the same advancements that are usually reserved for sexual reproduction. Even though mutations are a rare occurrence, the high speed of asexual reproduction partially offsets this issue by dramatically increasing the number of generations within a set timeframe.
BBC Bitesize. (n.d.). Advantages and disadvantages of sexual and asexual reproduction. Web.
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Miller, K. (n.d.). 20 Advantages and Disadvantages of Sexual Reproduction. Web.