Like father, like son: Attractiveness is hereditary

Nov 20, 2007

Sexy dads produce sexy sons, in the insect world at least. While scientists already knew that specific attractive traits, from cricket choruses to peacocks’ tails, are passed on to their offspring, the heritability of attractiveness as a whole is more contentious. Now, new research by the University of Exeter, published today (20 November) in Current Biology, shows that attractiveness is hereditary.

The research team, based on the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus, focused on the fruitfly Drosophila simulans. They paired up males and females at random and found the length of time it took for them to mate ranged from just two minutes to two hours. Female fruitflies need to make themselves accessible to males for mating to take place, so males cannot force copulation. Therefore, the speed at which mating occurs can be taken as an indication of the attractiveness of the male to his female partner.

After males had mated with around three females each, their sons who were full and half brothers, were paired with single females. Again, the time for copulation to occur was recorded. This allowed the researchers to look at the genetic component of attractiveness. They found that attractiveness is hereditary, passed on from father to son. Previous research has shown that females that mate with attractive males do not produce more offspring than those mating with less desirable males. This study indicates that one benefit females may enjoy by mating with attractive males is that they will produce ‘sexy’ sons, which are more likely to be successful in mating.

Dr David Hosken of the University of Exeter said: “Attractiveness probably can’t be defined by individual characteristics, so there is no single physical attribute that female fruitflies are looking for in a mate. However, there is clearly a benefit to females in having sexy sons that are more likely to attract a mate and produce offspring.”

Having now shown that attractiveness can be passed on from father to son, the research team believes that the findings could apply to other species. Although not tested, Dr Hosken believes his findings could be applied to humans: “It’s possible that attractiveness is hereditable across the animal kingdom. It could even be the case in humans that the sexiest dads also have the most desirable sons, which would probably be bad news for my boy.”

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Scientist discovers populations of rare songbird in surprising new habitat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Secret wing colours attract female fruit flies

Oct 22, 2014

Bright colours appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have now demonstrated that females choose a mate ...

Recommended for you

Cell division, minus the cells

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists since the dawn of cell biology in the Victorian era. ...

Scientist creates automatic birdsong recognition app

2 hours ago

Dr Dan Stowell, an EPSRC Research Fellow in QMUL's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has used a grant from Queen Mary Innovation to develop a prototype for an app that turns his research ...

A new method simplifies the analysis of RNA structure

2 hours ago

To understand the function of an RNA molecule, similar to the better-known DNA and vital for cell metabolism, we need to know its three-dimensional structure. Unfortunately, establishing the shape of an RNA ...

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study from researchers in our Department of Psychology with colleagues at Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.