Sex is shrouded in mystery. Not only does it preferentially occur in the dark for both fungi and many animals, but evolutionary biologists continue to debate its benefits given costs in light of its pervasive nature. Experimental studies of the benefits and costs of sexual reproduction with fungi as model systems have begun to provide evidence that the balance between sexual and asexual reproduction shifts in response to selective pressures. Given their unique evolutionary history as opisthokonts, along with metazoans, fungi serve as exceptional models for the evolution of sex and sex-determining regions of the genome (the mating type locus) and for transitions that commonly occur between outcrossing/self-sterile and inbreeding/self-fertile modes of reproduction. We review here the state of the understanding of sex and its evolution in the fungal kingdom and also areas where the field has contributed and will continue to contribute to illuminating general principles and paradigms of sexual reproduction.
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