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WE HAVEN'T HAD SEX FOR 40m YEARS; Creatures live down the ages by cloning.

Byline: By Mark McGivern

TINY life forms have survived for 40million years without having sex, scientists revealed yesterday.

The transparent creatures, called bdelloid rotifers, live in fresh water but every one of the species is female.

However, they still manage to reproduce by laying eggs which, though not fertilised, turn into female clones of the mother.

Other forms of life which may have relied on this method are believed to have died out. But the bdelloid not only survived, it has adapted to a changing world.

British researchers think the species disproves the widely held belief that only sexual reproduction can help animals evolve.

It was thought that sex helps life to adapt because interbreeding was necessary to pass on evolving genetic changes.

Asexual creatures were believed to change through random mutations - but now it seems they may not be so random after all.

A fossil study and DNA testing have shown that the bdelloid rotifer has changed over the millions of years of the species' existence. One of the Imperial College London research team, Dr TimBarraclough, said: "These really are amazing creatures, whose very existence calls into question scientific understanding.

"Their ability to survive and adapt to change certainly raises interesting questions about our understanding of evolutionary processes."

The aquatic survivors are different depending on their surroundings.

Two kinds of bdelloid were even found living on the body of one animal - a water louse - yet the one living on the louse's legs had evolved separately to the one which lives on the louse's chest.

One was bigger than the other and had a different shaped jaw.

It is thought the creatures follow the same pattern of nature that allows them to evolve differences, which help them survive.

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GIRL POWER: The bdelloid rotifers lay eggs which turn into clones of the mother
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 20, 2007
Words:304
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