Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
New research from the University of East Anglia has shown that females can maximise the genetic quality of their offspring by being promiscuous.
Researchers studied red junglefowl (the wild ancestor of the domestic chicken) in a collaborative project with the University of Oxford, Stockholm University and Linköping University.
Findings published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B reveal that mating with different males helps females produce offspring that are more resistant to diseases.
This is down to 'cryptic female choice' - where an internal mechanism in their reproductive tract favours the sperm from males that are most genetically different to them.
The genes in question (Major Histocompatibility Complex; MHC) play a key role in detecting and fighting infections. By biasing fertilisation in favour of MHC-dissimilar males, females increase the diversity of MHC within their offspring, providing them with better disease resistance.
The findings will be important for animal breeders as well as conservation projects because they show that allowing multiple matings will produce the most disease resistant and genetically healthy offspring.
Prof David S Richardson, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences, said: "Our research has shown that the females don't need to choose between males to produce the most healthy offspring. Rather by mating with multiple males, they allow their internal choice mechanism to favour the most genetically different sperm.
"This could be the case in other animals - including humans, however the practicality of testing this in mammals would be very difficult, and obviously impossible in humans for ethical reasons."
The research investigated both experimentally controlled natural matings and artificial inseminations and found that the effect observed in natural matings was lost during artificial insemination.
"To optimise the quality of offspring produced in breeding programs we may need to make sure that females mate with multiple males and that they avoid artificial insemination, which could lead to the genetic health of bred stocks being weaker.
"Many breeding programmes for livestock and conservation use artificial insemination. But our research suggests that this may not produce the best quality offspring.
"This is because the effect appears to require the subconscious female assessment of the male by some cue during actual mating.
"So having correct cues during mating, perhaps the smell of the male, can affect a females' chances of being fertilised. And the cues from different males may not work equally well on different females. This is something that needs to be explored further in various animals including humans."
The research was funded by Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Stockholm University, the Schwartz’ foundation, Lars Hierta’s foundation, Knut & Alice Wallenberg’s foundation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry.
‘Cryptic female choice favours sperm from major histocompatibility complex-dissimilar males’ by H Løvlie, MAF Gillingham, K Worley, T Pizzari, and DS Richardson is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on September 4, 2013. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1296
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our Biology / Biochemistry category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
University of East Anglia. "Promiscuity and sperm selection improves genetic quality in birds." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 7 Sep. 2013. Web.
6 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265659>
University of East Anglia. (2013, September 7). "Promiscuity and sperm selection improves genetic quality in birds." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/265659.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.