Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How mate choice is influenced by 'sexual imprinting' revealed by high school students

Date:
August 27, 2013
Source:
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)
Summary:
Two Tennessee high school students have used a combination of analytical models and individual-based mathematical simulations, to shed new light on how mate choice is influenced by "sexual imprinting," a process whereby individuals express preference for mates with traits similar to their mothers, to their fathers, or to other adult members in their population.

Hayes Griffin (left) and Dalton Chaffee (right) present their award-winning research at the international meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology in 2012.
Credit: NIMBioS

Two Tennessee high school students have now done what many scientists strive for: publishing their research in a top science journal.

Dalton Chaffee and Hayes Griffin worked with mentor R. Tucker Gilman, a former postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to study mate choice.

Their work was published this week in the journal Evolution.

The students began their research between their junior and senior years at Bearden High School in Knoxville. They wanted to know why individuals choose the mates they choose.

Using a combination of analytical models and individual-based mathematical simulations, Chaffee and Griffin made several important discoveries that shed new light on how mate choice is influenced by "sexual imprinting," a process whereby individuals express preference for mates with traits similar to their mothers, to their fathers, or to other adult members in their population. It is known from field studies that females of many species are choosier about mating partners than males are.

"Sexual imprinting is common in nature, but different species do it different ways, and how it evolves is poorly understood," said Gilman. "Dalton and Hayes wanted to know why different species should evolve to imprint on different individuals."

The research showed that if the apparatus females use to identify and select their preferred mates requires a lot of effort to maintain-for example, if they must have special cells in their eyes to see male colors-then sexual imprinting will not evolve. This suggests that a complex apparatus used for sexual imprinting must evolve initially for some other reason, such as to avoid predators.

When imprinting does evolve, females will choose mates like their fathers -- which increases the likelihood of viable offspring and sons that are sexually attractive to females -- like the fathers were to the mothers.

In situations where the father is absent, females can evolve to imprint on their mothers or on randomly selected adult males. This kind of imprinting allows females to select mates that will give them viable offspring, but it doesn't guarantee that these offspring, particularly sons, will be sexually attractive like the females' fathers were to the mothers.

"The paper gives researchers and empirical scientists alike a better idea of the circumstances under which different types of sexual imprinting develop," Chaffee said. "Hopefully, this will in turn allow them to better understand sexual selection, both for individual species and on a large scale."

Chaffee said that he and Griffin spent about 20 hours each week on the project, including reading reams of biological studies about sexual imprinting and learning how to use sophisticated computer programming software to run their simulations.

"Just reading was extremely difficult, as much of the jargon and format was completely unfamiliar and very complex," he said.

Gilman said he was impressed with the students' drive and initiative.

"Dalton and Hayes needed very little guidance and demonstrated a great deal of commitment to the project," said Gilman, now a faculty member at the University of Manchester, UK. "Their results explain something completely new about the way mate choice and sexual selection work, and will motivate future work in these fields. That is quite an achievement for scientists at any level."

The research won a regional finalist award last year in the nationwide Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and was also presented at the international meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology in 2012.

"The entire experience was by far the most strenuous academic task I have undertaken, but it was also the most rewarding," said Chaffee.

This fall, Chaffee will be a freshman at Purdue University and Griffin will be a freshman at Duke University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dalton W. Chaffee, Hayes Griffin, R. Tucker Gilman. SEXUAL IMPRINTING: WHAT STRATEGIES SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE IN NATURE? Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/evo.12226

Cite This Page:

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). "How mate choice is influenced by 'sexual imprinting' revealed by high school students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130827113029.htm>.
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). (2013, August 27). How mate choice is influenced by 'sexual imprinting' revealed by high school students. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130827113029.htm
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). "How mate choice is influenced by 'sexual imprinting' revealed by high school students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130827113029.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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