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Mating has long-term benefits: Courtship can take effort, but now scientists know why it might be worth it

Date:
April 9, 2012
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
Courtship rituals can be all-consuming, demanding time and effort – but now scientists have discovered why it might be worth it.

Courtship rituals can demand time and effort, but now scientists have discovered why it might be worth it.

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Attracting a mate -- which can take significant effort, such as in a peacock's show of feathers or the exhaustive rutting of stags -- can produce benefits for a species in the long term, a study suggests.

Edinburgh scientists have shown that animals and plants which reproduce sexually are at a considerable advantage to those species -- such as some insects and reptiles -- that reproduce without a partner.

Shuffling DNA

Researchers studied sexual reproduction in tiny fruit flies to learn more about how DNA is randomly shuffled when the genes of two parents combine to create a new individual.

They found that this recombination of genetic material allows for damaging elements of DNA -- which might cause disease or other potential drawbacks -- to be weeded out within a few generations.

Individuals who inherit healthy genes tend to flourish and pass on their DNA to the next generation, while weaker individuals are more likely to die without reproducing.

Strong evidence

The findings were made possible by genome sequencing technology.

They provide strong evidence to back up a long-standing theory that sexual reproduction, rather than asexual cloning of an individual, has long-term benefits for a species.

Scientists studied how the DNA of fruit flies is affected when the recombination of DNA does not occur.

They found that harmful DNA quickly accumulates, making the species weaker overall in the long term.

Crop science

Researchers say the findings may help inform the development of crop species with high yields.

The study, published in Genome Biology and Evolution, was supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.

"Throughout the animal kingdom, individuals have to go to a lot of effort to reproduce. This is strong evidence to show that sexual reproduction enables a species to continually adapt and to weed out elements of DNA that would otherwise cause long-term damage," said Dr Penny Haddrill of the School of Biological Science.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J. L. Campos, B. Charlesworth, P. R. Haddrill. Molecular Evolution in Nonrecombining Regions of the Drosophila melanogaster Genome. Genome Biology and Evolution, 2012; 4 (3): 278 DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evs010

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Mating has long-term benefits: Courtship can take effort, but now scientists know why it might be worth it." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409133912.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2012, April 9). Mating has long-term benefits: Courtship can take effort, but now scientists know why it might be worth it. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409133912.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Mating has long-term benefits: Courtship can take effort, but now scientists know why it might be worth it." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409133912.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

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