A high incidence of parthenogenesis in agricultural pests Academic Article uri icon


  • Parthenogenetic species are assumed to represent evolutionary dead ends, yet parthenogenesis is common in some groups of invertebrates particularly in those found in relatively constant environments. This suggests that parthenogenetic reproduction might be common in pest invertebrates from uniform agricultural environments. Based on the evaluations of two databases from North America and Italy, we found that parthenogenetic species comprised 45 per cent (North America) or 48 per cent (Italy) of pest species derived from genera where parthenogenesis occurred, compared with an overall incidence of 10 per cent or 16 per cent in these genera. In establishing these patterns, we included only genera containing at least some member species that reproduced by parthenogenesis. The high incidence of parthenogenesis in pest species is spread across different families and several insect orders. Parthenogenetic reproduction may be favoured in agricultural environments when particular clones have a high fitness across multiple generations. Increasing the complexity and variability of agricultural environments represents one way of potentially controlling parthenogenetic pest species.

publication date

  • November 7, 2008