Technology & Science

Fly dads sire sexy sons

Attractiveness is hereditary in the insect world, new findings from the United Kingdom suggest.

Attractiveness is hereditary in the insect world, new findings from the United Kingdom suggest.

In research published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology, a team of scientists from the University of Exeter found that attractive fruitfly fathers had attractive sons. The study did not look at particular attractive characteristics, but rather attractiveness to females as a whole.

"That attractive males father attractive sons is assumed by many sexual selection models," the report said, citing benefits to females through their offspring and manipulation of females by sexy males, "but in general, there is a lack of evidence for this fundamental genetic association."

The researchers searched for the hereditary sexylink by studying fruitfly Drosophila simulans and measuring the amount of time it took the flies, and then in turn their offspring, to mate.

Mating time is a judge of attractiveness, the researchers explained in their study, because female fruitflies can thwart male sexual efforts by walking away, ignoring them and barring them access by refusing to open their vaginal plates.

The team paired each male flywith threefemale flies at random and timed how long it took the females to allow the males to mate. The results ranged from two minutes to two hours.

Then, the researchers ran the same experiment with single females and the offspring from the original test. They found the sons had similar mating times to their fathers. "Sexy fathers sire sexy sons," the study said, and "therefore, we can conclude that attractiveness is heritable."

Previous research has shown that females who mate with attractive males do not have more offspring than those mating with the less desirable males. The benefit, the team found, was thatin mating with attractive males femalesproduce attractive sons, who in turn are more likely to be successful in mating than flies with less sexy fathers.

"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," said research team member David Hosken in a release.

"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."