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Naturally clonal vertebrates are an untapped resource in ecology and evolution research


Science requires replication. The development of many cloned or isogenic model organisms is a testament to this. But researchers are reluctant to use these traditional animal model systems for certain questions in evolution or ecology research, because of concerns over relevance or inbreeding. It has largely been overlooked that there are a substantial number of vertebrate species that reproduce clonally in nature. Here we highlight how use of these naturally evolved, phenotypically complex animals can push the boundaries of traditional experimental design and contribute to answering fundamental questions in the fields of ecology and evolution.

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We thank M. Schartl and I. Schlupp for constructive conversations. This work was supported in part by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Grant LA 3778/1-1 to K.L.L.; grant BI 1828/2-1 to D.B.) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Postdoctoral Fellowship to C.D.).

Author information

K.L.L., M.W. and J.K. conceived the idea for the manuscript. K.L.L. wrote the initial draft. All authors substantially contributed to revisions and editing of manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Kate L. Laskowski.

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Fig. 1: Three examples of unisexual vertebrates.
Fig. 2: Modes of unisexual reproduction.