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Sexy Fruit Flies

January 7, 2008

In a species of fruit fly, a male’s attractiveness to the opposite sex gets passed from one generation to the next.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Do sexy fathers make sexy sons? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fruit flies might not seem sexy to you, but ecologists Michelle Taylor and David Hosken of the University of Exeter in England beg to differ. They measured the attractiveness of male Drosophila simulans fruit flies by how quickly females chose to mate with them. They let the offspring grow up and then measured how long it took new females to pair up with the sons of the original males. They found that sons of attractive fathers also got the most mates.

DAVID HOSKEN (University of Exeter):
If the offspring inherit the attractiveness of the dad, then they’re more likely to have children themselves, which means that females that choose to mate with more attractive males will have more grandchildren. And that means they’re at a selective advantage.

HIRSHON:
The researchers are now trying to find out which qualities the females find so attractive in these males, and whether mating with them also produces fitter offspring. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.