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: Genetic basis of color diversity in coral reefs discovered

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Men want commitment when women are scarce

Jan 13, 2015

The sexual stereotype, in line with evolutionary theory, is that women want commitment and men want lots of flings. But a study of the Makushi people in Guyana shows the truth is more complex, with men more ...

Study shows starving mantis females attract more males

Dec 17, 2014

A study done by Katherine Barry an evolutionary biologist with Macquarie University in Australia has led to the discovery that a certain species of female mantis attracts more males when starving, then do ...

Recommended for you

Population genomics unveil seahorse domain

2 hours ago

In a finding vital to effective species management, a team including City College of New York biologists has determined that the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) is more a permanent resident of the we ...

Researchers develop new potato cultivar

5 hours ago

Dakota Ruby is the name of a new potato cultivar developed by the NDSU potato breeding project and released by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. Dakota Ruby has bright red skin, stores well and is intended ...

Researchers develop new soybean variety

5 hours ago

The North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station has developed and released ND Henson, a conventional soybean variety, according to Rich Horsley, chair of the NDSU Department of Plant Sciences.

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.