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September 09, 2007

For the (Grand)Children: New Theory Says Female Promiscuity Helps Prevent Inbreeding

Gene Simmons was just saying something similar to this on that Terri Gross interview I linked. I thought he was talking out his ass.

I still sort of do, but then, you know, science.

Female animals that mate with multiple partners may be doing so to ensure the optimum health of their grandchildren, according to researchers at the universities of Leeds and Exeter.

...

Despite mating being a risky business for females – not least with the threat of injury, sexually transmitted diseases and vulnerability to predators - polyandry (females taking multiple mates) is widespread in the animal kingdom.

Dr Stephen Cornell (Leeds) and Dr Tom Tregenza (Exeter) have shown that polyandry may have evolved as a survival technique because it provides genetic benefits for species that either accidentally inbreed, or may have no other choice in certain circumstances.

The researchers used a mathematical model to calculate the genetic advantages of polyandry for species where inbreeding is routine – which is thought to be a very large number of species and includes social spiders and many pests of stored food such as beetles. They found that the genetic rewards are likely to be strong enough to compensate for the risks involved in taking extra mate.

...

But many species are not cabable of preferentially fertilizing their eggs and so must have a different reason for their behaviour. For these species, mating with multiple partners means that the female’s offspring are only half-siblings, so that when inbreeding occurs the gene pool is wider, which reduces the chances of genetic defects appearing.

Gene Simmons -- behavioral evolutionist. Who knew?


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posted by Ace at 10:32 PM

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