Non-genetic inheritance mechanisms - more epigenetics!
Scientists have discovered a new form of non-genetic inheritance, showing for the first time that offspring can resemble a mother’s previous sexual partner – in flies at least. This confronting idea, known as telegony, dates back to ancient Greek times, but was discredited in the early 20th Century with the advent of genetics.
To test it out, UNSW Australia scientists Dr Angela Crean, Professor Russell Bonduriansky and Dr Anna Kopps manipulated the size of male flies and studied their offspring.
They found that the size of the young was determined by the size of the first male the mother mated with, rather than the second male that sired the offspring.
"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," says lead author Dr Crean.
The researchers propose that the effect is due to molecules in the seminal fluid of the first mate being absorbed by the female’s immature eggs and then influencing the growth of offspring of a subsequent mate.
The study is published in the journal Ecology Letters.
Caption: Neriid flies are depicted. Scientists at UNSW Australia have studied the flies and discovered a new form of non-genetic inheritance, showing for the first time that offspring can resemble a mother’s previous sexual partner. Credit: Image: Russell Bonduriansky