Regenerating Themselves: How Do Self-reproducing species go the distance?
The ability to reproduce is, above all else, the key to the survival (the "sustainability") of any species. This concept seems simple enough-but reproduction can be a highly complex process, so much so that Asher Cutter is making a career out of understanding its intricacies.
Cutter, the Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Genomics, is particularly interested in what goes on in species that reproduce in unconventional ways and how these out-of-the-ordinary processes affect evolution.
Exploring breeding systems that don't always rely on male-female partnering, Cutter is trying to answer such fundamental questions as: When, why, and how is sexual reproduction important? To this end, he studies a nematode roundworm species, Caenorhabditis elegans, and its relatives-a family in which some species don't require a male organism to reproduce.
Using this species as a model, Cutter integrates genomic information with evolutionary theory from population genetics, behaviour, development, and ecology to generate a synthetic view of evolution, both among organisms and within their genomes.
Cutter's research program-which combines molecular bench work, bioinformatics and computer simulation, experiments with nematodes, and mathematical modelling-promises to illuminate long-standing questions about the forces that contribute to the origin and maintenance of sexual reproduction.