Among the variety of reproductive mechanisms exhibited by living systems, one permutation - androdioecy (mixtures of males and hermaphrodites) - is distinguished by its rarity. Models of mating system evolution predict that androdioecy should be a brief stage between hermaphroditism and dioecy (separate males and females), or vice versa. Herein we report evidence of widespread and ancient androdioecy in crustaceans in the genus Eulimnadia, based on observations of over 33,000 shrimp from 36 locations from every continent except Antarctica. Using phylogenetic, biogeographic and paleontological evidence, we infer that androdioecy in Eulimnadia has persisted for 24 – 180 million years and has been maintained through multiple speciation events. These results suggest that androdioecy is a highly successful aspect of the life history of these freshwater crustaceans, and has persisted for orders of magnitude longer than predicted by current models of this rare breeding system.
Note: This paper has been "featured research" in both Nature and Current Biology.