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Our Expert Voices conversation on why sex exists.

In a constant environment, asexuality is the most efficient and reliable form of reproduction, as it directly copies the genomes of parents who survive to reproduce. Asexuality also avoids the many costs of finding and attracting a mate, not to mention sexually transmitted diseases. If the world were constant, organisms would likely be asexual.

The world is, however, ever-changing. Species must continually adapt in the face of environmental shifts, fires and other catastrophes, as well as constantly evolving parasites, prey, and predators.

Asexual populations are very much limited in their evolutionary potential by the genomes currently present within a population, while sexual populations can evolve much further by mixing and matching genes initially present in different individuals. Sexual reproduction shuffles genetic variants throughout the entire genome, providing an almost limitless variety for evolution to act upon, even with a limited number of individuals within a species. Models of this combinatoric problem have indeed found that genes increasing the amount of sex can spread.

The bottom line: In our changing world, more sexual individuals leave descendants with a greater variety of genomes, the best of which is most likely to survive, spreading the genes that make sex so common.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Everyone wants to be an influencer

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of people looking to become online influencers has exploded during the pandemic.

Why it matters: Almost anyone can find themselves in a position to become an influencer, and brands are throwing billions of dollars at online content creators.

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be on the Empire Builder train, traveling from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

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