Nav: Home

Love rivals risk having offspring with a greater number of harmful mutations

March 16, 2020

Males that face tougher competition for females risk having offspring with a greater number of harmful mutations in their genome than males without rivals. Researchers at Uppsala University have discovered this correlation in the beetle species Callosobruchus maculatus. Their study is published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

"Many researchers working in the fields of human reproductive biology and more general evolutionary theory have taken an interest in this. The hypothesis is not new in itself but there have been few experiments conducted to test it. This is where we hope our study can contribute an important piece of the puzzle," says David Berger of Uppsala University's Department of Ecology and Genetics.

Just as with fish, birds and mammals, in the insect world several males often mate with the same female. This leads to a form of sexual selection in which the males' sperm compete to fertilise the female's eggs. Males that produce more numerous or more competitive sperm often win the competition and become fathers.

Research conducted at the Department of Ecology and Genetics at Uppsala University has succeeded in demonstrating that increased competition between males can lead to a higher rate of harmful mutations in offspring.

Genomic DNA is damaged with every cell division but this damage is usually prevented or repaired by an effective, but costly, cellular surveillance system. The new study shows that sperm production in competing males of the species Callosobruchus maculatus, or cowpea weevil, comes at the expense of this cellular surveillance.

In experiments, male beetles were exposed to radiation in order to damage their genome. After a period of recuperation, the males were allowed to mate with females and become fathers. The researchers then followed their offspring to measure the varying quality of subsequent generations and discovered that males kept in groups, with the concomitant risk of sperm competition, had offspring with a greater number of harmful new mutations than those that lived alone.

The researchers behind the study do however point out that competition between males need not lead to deteriorating gene health in the long term. This is because, as the study also shows, males from populations with high sperm competition over many generations adapt to the new conditions by producing more sperm and more viable offspring compared to males adapted to a life of monogamy.

"Even if the direct effect of sperm competition is to increase the number of mutations in offspring, the paradoxical long-term effect of sexual selection may be a lower rate of mutation," explains David Berger.

The researchers behind the study explain that both of these mechanisms play important roles in how genetic variation arises and is maintained in species where males compete to mate. This in turn can affect the potential for evolutionary adaptation, which depends on genetic variation.

Uppsala University

Related Genome Articles:

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.
Breakthrough in genome visualization
Kadir Dede and Dr. Enno Ohlebusch at Ulm University in Germany have devised a method for constructing pan-genome subgraphs at different granularities without having to wait hours and days on end for the software to process the entire genome.
Sturgeon genome sequenced
Sturgeons lived on earth already 300 million years ago and yet their external appearance seems to have undergone very little change.
A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.
Deciphering the walnut genome
New research could provide a major boost to the state's growing $1.6 billion walnut industry by making it easier to breed walnut trees better equipped to combat the soil-borne pathogens that now plague many of California's 4,800 growers.
Illuminating the genome
Development of a new molecular visualisation method, RNA-guided endonuclease -- in situ labelling (RGEN-ISL) for the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated labelling of genomic sequences in nuclei and chromosomes.
A genome under influence
References form the basis of our comprehension of the world: they enable us to measure the height of our children or the efficiency of a drug.
How a virus destabilizes the genome
New insights into how Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) induces genome instability and promotes cell proliferation could lead to the development of novel antiviral therapies for KSHV-associated cancers, according to a study published Sept.
Better genome editing
Reich Group researchers develop a more efficient and precise method of in-cell genome editing.
Unlocking the genome
A team led by Prof. Stein Aerts (VIB-KU Leuven) uncovers how access to relevant DNA regions is orchestrated in epithelial cells.
More Genome News and Genome Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.