Birds may boost offspring’s survival through infidelityJuly 28th, 2010 - 2:17 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, July 28 (ANI): A 10-year study has revealed that female birds may increase their offspring’s survival through infidelity.
The University of East Anglia study has shown that the extra-pair fertilisations can result in a higher diversity of specific genes, which detect disease and trigger an immune response in offspring.
As a consequence, the offspring survive longer probably as a result of having greater resistance to a wider range of diseases.
The research ‘MHC-dependent survival in a wild population: evidence for hidden genetic benefits gained through extra-pair fertilisations’ had been going on since 1997.
More than 97 per cent of warblers on the tiny island of Cousin in the Seychelles were ringed, blood sampled, and their breeding attempts followed.
The researchers monitored the fate of 160 birds hatched on the island between 1997 and 1999, over 10 years.
They found that females paired to males with a low diversity of disease-detecting genes (major histocompatibility complex or MHC) elevate the gene diversity of their offspring by gaining extra-pair fertilisations from males with higher diversity. This extra pair fertility was found to be common - accounting for 40 per cent of offspring.
Importantly, the offspring born as a result of this female infidelity have higher genetic diversity at these disease-detecting genes than they would have had if sired by the cuckolded pair male. However they were not found to be higher than the population average.
The researchers then found a positive association between diversity of MHC genes and juvenile survival. A higher than median MHC diversity was found to increase lifespan more than two-fold.
They also found that offspring with a specific rare gene variant (Ase-ua4) had a five times longer life expectancy than offspring without this allele. However these birds did not necessarily have a greater MHC diversity. It is thought that individuals with this rare variant of MHC genes may survive longer because these rare variants better resist diseases that have already evolved to evade more common variants.
David Richardson of UEA said: “We first tested whether extra-pair offspring have a survival advantage compared to within-pair offspring. Then we tested whether there are genetic benefits to the patterns of the MHC-dependent extra-pair fertilizations observed in this species.”
“We did not find any evidence for genetic benefits of extra-pair fertilisations per se, as on average extra-and within-pair offspring survived equally well.
“However, by not being faithful to a pair male with low MHC diversity, females are ensuring that their offspring do not end up with below average levels of MHC diversity and therefore lower survival,” he added.
The findings were published in Molecular Ecology. (ANI)
- What prompts female birds' promiscuous behaviour? - May 01, 2009
- Why female birds seek extra mates - May 01, 2009
- Female birds turn promiscuous for better offspring - Sep 06, 2011
- Female birds cheat 'to have healthy offspring' - Aug 21, 2010
- Light pollution screws up songbirds' sex lives - Sep 17, 2010
- Offspring of promiscuous frogs have better survival rates - Feb 20, 2011
- For hares, variety really is the spice of life - Nov 23, 2010
- Fathering at 50? Your kids may be autists - Sep 02, 2011
- Variant form of immune receptor gene 'ups lupus risk in men' - Sep 03, 2010
- Offspring of promiscuous tit birds gets a head start to remain stronger - May 13, 2009
- Parents who devote less time to offspring more prone to homosexuality - Jul 10, 2010
- Women of greater genetic diversity have more sex partners - Mar 05, 2010
- Some birds prefer mates with good voices rather than looks - Dec 03, 2009
- Fracture prone? Blame your genes - Apr 22, 2012
- Monogamous animals often wind up with unattractive partners - Feb 02, 2011
Tags: allele, cousin, east anglia, female birds, female infidelity, females, fertility, gene variant, genetic diversity, immune response, life expectancy, lifespan, major histocompatibility complex, mhc genes, offspring, population average, rare variant, tiny island, university of east anglia, warblers