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Sex Determination: Why So Many Ways of Doing It?

Figure 1

Sex chromosome differentiation.

A. Reconstructed evolutionary path of sex chromosome differentiation in humans. Sex chromosomes originate from autosomes that acquired a sex-determining function (the Sry gene) after their split from monotremes. Suppression of recombination between the sex chromosomes, associated with degeneration of the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome, results in the morphological and genetic differentiation of sex chromosomes. Recombination suppression occurred in multiple episodes along the human X and Y chromosome, forming so-called evolutionary strata. The oldest stratum is shared between eutherian mammals and marsupials, while the youngest stratum of humans is primate-specific. B. The degree of sex chromosome differentiation ranges widely across species, spanning the entire spectrum of homomorphic to heteromorphic sex chromosomes, from a single sex-determining locus, as seen in pufferfish, a small differentiated region (strawberry and emu), most of the sex chromosomes apart from short recombining regions (humans), to the entire sex chromosome pair, as seen in Drosophila. Note that the sex chromosomes are not drawn to scale.

Figure 1

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001899.g001