Oct. 08, 2014
NewsScientific News

Offspring Can Inherit Traits of Mom’s Previous Mate

  • Meriid male flies fighting. Credit: Russell BondurianksyMeriid male flies fighting. Credit: Russell Bondurianksy

Experiments in flies indicate that offspring can inherit an acquired characteristic of their mother's previous mate. By setting up different mating situations, researchers found that the size of offspring can be influenced by the characteristics of a female fly's previous mate rather than the genetic father.

This novel transgenerational effect appears to be driven by the influence of male semen on the development of the female's immature eggs. The potential for such effects exists in any organism with internal fertilization and multiple mating partners, and such effects could influence the evolution of reproductive strategies.

"Our discovery complicates our entire view of how variation is transmitted across generations, but also opens up exciting new possibilities and avenues of research. Just as we think we have things figured out, nature throws us a curve ball and shows us how much we still have to learn," said Dr. Angela Crean from the University of Groningen, lead author of the Ecology Letters study.

Original Publication:
Crean A. J. et al.: Revisiting telegony: offspring inherit an acquired characteristic of their mother's previous mate, Ecology Letters (2014)

University of Groningen

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