Scientists have long theorized that sexual reproduction was better, evolutionarily speaking, than its asexual counterpart—and now they’ve got some evidence. Researchers in Britain found that sexually-reproducing worms were better at staying “one evolutionary step ahead” of parasites than asexual versions of the same worm, NPR reports. That sheds light on “one of the long-standing mysteries in evolutionary biology, one that we've been banging our heads against for 30 years,” says a researcher.
The question: What’s the point of guys? They take up resources, can't give birth, and have nothing to offer but their DNA. The worms offer a clue: When scientists introduced a parasite to asexual versions, those worms "rapidly went extinct,” says a researcher. But “sexual populations were able to adapt and become better at evading their parasites,” even as those parasites grew more potent. So males are worth having around: Mixing DNA makes for stronger species, the study suggests.