Story 2014-10-06 2T52 Offspring can resemble a mother’s previous mate

Offspring can resemble a mother’s previous mate

by
in science on (#2T52)
The physical traits of previous sexual partners could be passed on to future children. Telegony was first hypothesized by Aristotle and was a widely held belief in the Middle Ages and up until the 19th century. The theory was discredited by the advent of genetics, but may have some truth to it after all. Scientists at the University of New South Wales discovered that, for fruit flies at least, 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.

"We know that features that run in families are not just influenced by the genes that are passed down from parents to their children. Various non-genetic inheritance mechanisms make it possible for environmental factors to influence characteristics of a child. Our new findings take this to a whole new level – showing a male can also transmit some of his acquired features to offspring sired by other males," says lead author Dr Angela Crean.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/11133203/Could-previous-lovers-influence-appearance-of-future-children.html
Reply 17 comments

Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-06 22:50 (#2T5D)

The lead author sounds like a terrible person, purposely conflating insect reproduction with a implied human connection that completely doesn't exist. AW.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-06 23:08 (#2T5E)

You say this based on which insights? Epigenetic effects are known for quite some time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics
Knowing that and from the article:
The researchers propose that the effect is due to molecules in the semen of the first mate being absorbed by the female's immature eggs where they influence future offspring.
Not much of a stretch.
And I think it is only natural, that when such a mechanism is found in one species, to look if the same mechanism can be found in other species, too.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-10 10:20 (#2T75)

Except that in humans, the place where immature eggs are stored is not identical to the place where mature eggs are fertilised.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-07 02:46 (#2T5K)

The lead author sounds like a terrible person, purposely conflating insect reproduction with a implied human connection
Was there a specific quote you're referring to? She did specifically say: "But we don't know yet whether this applies to other species."

Don't confuse the study authors for the journalist taking the story whichever direction they prefer. For an extreme example, the Guardian article on the same subject was one big estrogen-fueled rant about the journalist's previous boyfriends...

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/02/baby-looks-like-ex-research
human connection that completely doesn't exist.
Just because a human connection hasn't yet been proven, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. This is just the first study establishing that the effect exists... Humans absolutely are known to be greatly affected by other epigenetic effects, as TFA and tanuki both mention. It may take decades to determine how significantly affected, if at all, humans are.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-07 13:33 (#2T5T)

Absolutely, going by the quote in the summary right here.

""We know that features that run in families are not just influenced by the genes that are passed down from parents to their children. Various non-genetic inheritance mechanisms make it possible for environmental factors to influence characteristics of a child. Our new findings take this to a whole new level – showing a male can also transmit some of his acquired features to offspring sired by other males,"

From parents to their CHILDREN. She is talking about humans and human families. It's irresponsible of her. Worse, it's stupid.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 2, Insightful)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-07 20:34 (#2T5X)

What? You don't think fruit fly adults can be called "parents" and offspring can't be called their "children"?

I think your paranoia is running amok. And for some reason you desperately want to believe humans are immune, despite that being undetermined.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-08 00:40 (#2T5Y)

No. You're wrong. In quick succession she used "FAMILIES", "parent", "children", and "child". She's talking to a reporter. You know exactly what she was trying to imply to get her name in the papers. The only situation in which this is even theoretically applicable to humans would be a remarkably well timed gang bang.

'Cause you can just picture the fly family sitting around the teeny tiny TV at night.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-08 05:07 (#2T60)

It's 100% plausible that this effect is fully applicable to humans. Plenty of environmental factors have epigenetic effects on us. Your denials, saying it can't possibly apply to us, is utterly baseless, wishful thinking.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-08 13:15 (#2T62)

And why does it matter so much to this person?

Re: Balderdash (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-08 13:34 (#2T65)

Why does evolution matter so much to creationists? Too many people cannot distinguish between pure scientific facts and possible social and cultural reactions to scientific findings.

Though he is not totally wrong. This article is sensationalistic. The leap from 'fruit flies have the size of a former mate' and possible similar mechanisms in mammals is gigantic. First they should research the exact mechanism for the effect in fruit flies. Especially if there is DNA in any way involved. For all I care they can already start similar experiments with mice. But to speculate at this point about humans... too early.

But then again... often a huge gap between what scientists say and what journalists hear.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-15 09:53 (#2TCE)

Lack of evidence is not evidence.

What I see a lack of here is actual evidence, beyond anecdotes, that this effect is a real thing.

You are correct but many make the mistake of trying to prove something that does not actually exist based on anecdote rather than actual empirical evidence.

My explanation, in humans the female tends to go back to their ex for a little booty from time to time. This is supported by genetic evidence and statistics that says something on the order of 15% of us, our fathers are not who we think that they are, because (Surprise) Mom cheated on Dad.

If I inherited anything from my Mom's ex BF it was the tendency to speak directly to the elephant in the room.

Re: Balderdash (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-07 09:40 (#2T5R)

Or... a scientist is attempting to explain why the kids do not look like their dad

Re: Balderdash (Score: 1)

by reziac@pipedot.org on 2014-10-12 05:19 (#2T7Q)

Genetics: Why you look like your father, or if you don't, why you should.

Hard to answer when two stories are mixed. (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-07 02:54 (#2T5M)

And the story right above this one is that telegony, roundly denounced by prevailing scientific wisdom for over a century, may actually be true.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I am very skeptical with this one. Not my field of expertise, so what I do here is nothing more as speculation. However, I suppose some scientific papers have been misinterpreted and/or to much dumbed down by journalists. Would not be the first time.
Various non-genetic inheritance mechanisms make it possible for environmental factors to influence characteristics of a child.
Sure, changes through the environment may make children stronger, weaker, taller, smaller, may influence the immune system. No doubt about that. Question is what is meant with 'resemble'? In a human context it would mean something like hair colour, eye colour, facial features...the usual stuff when people say 'this kid resembles his mother/father/grand parents, etc. But those traits are encoded in DNA. I don't see a way how these traits can be passed without DNA just by some chemicals in the males sperm. Not saying this is impossible. And maybe there is DNA involved in some unknown way. However... as I initially said: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Re: Hard to answer when two stories are mixed. (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-10-07 03:00 (#2T5N)

You're seeing these two stories mixed together? Nothing like that here. No clue what you're talking about. You should follow that "Bugs" link at the bottom of the page.

Re: Hard to answer when two stories are mixed. (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-10-07 03:04 (#2T5P)

Not really mixed. But your answer in "Large Storms..."
"Earthquake weather" has been dismissed by scientists repeatedly. And the story right above this one is that telegony, roundly
"Earthquake weather" and telegony confused me a bit. Way beyond my bed time... But have to stay awake and kill time. :-D

Re: Hard to answer when two stories are mixed. (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-15 09:56 (#2TCF)

I totally agree here, this "Chemicals in the male sperm" weak interaction kind of smacks of homeopathy.. It is just not how the thing we call "Chemistry" works.