Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research Sheds Light On Benefits Of Multiple Mates

Date:
November 21, 2008
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
New research could explain why females of many species have multiple partners. Females of most species, including many mammals, mate with multiple partners. The driving forces for this practice, known as 'polyandry', have been a mystery for evolutionary biologists for decades. This research suggests that polyandry could be the result of females adapting to avoid producing offspring carrying selfish genetic elements that reduce male fertility.

New research could explain why females of many species have multiple partners. Published on November 21, 2008 in the journal Science, the study was carried out by a team from the Universities of Exeter (UK), Okayama (Japan) and Liverpool (UK).

Related Articles


Females of most species, including many mammals, mate with multiple partners. The driving forces for this practice, known as 'polyandry', have been a mystery for evolutionary biologists for decades. This research suggests that polyandry could be the result of females adapting to avoid producing offspring carrying selfish genetic elements that reduce male fertility.

The research team based the study on the fruitfly Drosophila pseudoobscura, which they bred over ten generations. Some males of this species carry a 'selfish gene' on their X chromosome that causes sperm carrying the Y-chromosome to fail. This means that males carrying this gene can only produce daughters, all of which carry the sperm damaging gene.

In this study females evolved to mate with more partners when they were exposed to males carrying this selfish gene. There was no way for the females to tell whether or not a potential mate carried the gene, but they evolved to re-mate more quickly. After ten generations, they re-mated after an average of 2.75 days, compared with 3.25 days among the original population. By mating more frequently, females ensure sperm from different males compete. This competition favours males without the sperm-damaging selfish genes, allowing females to bias paternity against these males.

Corresponding author Dr Nina Wedell of the University of Exeter said: "Multiple mating by females has puzzled biologists for decades. It's more risky and costs precious time and energy for females. Our study suggests that these significant costs are worthwhile because the female increases her chances of producing healthy offspring of both sexes that do not carry the selfish gene."

Selfish genes occur at random as a result of mutations. They spread quickly through populations because they subvert normal patterns of inheritance, increasing their presence in the next generation.

The researchers believe the findings have relevance for a range of species with polyandrous females, including some primates. Dr Nina Wedell explains: "Selfish genetic elements exist in all living organisms and many compromise male fertility. Our study could provide a new explanation for why polyandry is so remarkably widespread."

At this stage the researchers do not know what implications these findings might have for understanding human reproduction. However, it is possible that some types of male fertility disorder are caused by the manipulation of selfish genes.

This study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Research Sheds Light On Benefits Of Multiple Mates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120144236.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2008, November 21). Research Sheds Light On Benefits Of Multiple Mates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120144236.htm
University of Exeter. "Research Sheds Light On Benefits Of Multiple Mates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120144236.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins