‘Parents are born, not made’November 4th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS
London, Nov 4 (IANS) Genes do influence the role parents play in bringing up their children, according to the latest study. Researchers from Exeter and Edinburgh Universities based their findings on the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, which they believe are relevant to other species and possibly humans.
Specialised male and female roles are common in species in which both parents take responsibility for raising the offspring. Male and female burying beetles share the roles needed to rear their young, but their responsibilities differ.
Females tend to spend more of their time directly caring for the offspring through feeding, which involves regurgitating food directly into begging mouths, like birds. Males indirectly help their young by preparing food and taking care of the nest.
Co-author Allen Moore of Exeter University said: “Despite the best efforts of parents to be consistent in child rearing, it is not unusual for mums and dads to differ in the nature of their interactions with offspring.
“In case of humans, until recently this was expressed as dad bringing home the bacon and mum taking care of the kids. The same pattern holds in many animals where both parents help rear the offspring - mothers often directly care for the young while the father takes care of the nest or brings home food for the family.
“But why should parents specialise? Why don’t they share the duties equally? Previous studies suggested that specialising is efficient. But why a particularly speciality for mums and dads? Why not work it out family by family? In this study we examine the genetic influences on parenting for the first time, and ask if different parenting styles are inherited.”
The study focussed on a population of burying beetles collected in Cornwall and bred over three generations. After breeding, the beetles were separated so the team could compare the roles taken by a single mother and a single father, according to an Exeter University press release.
The result was that females focussed their efforts on providing direct care for their young whereas males were more inclined towards indirect care. Therefore, males and females working separately focussed on the same roles they would adopt if they were raising their young together. Furthermore, the differences reflected genetics.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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