Like father, like son: Attractiveness is hereditary

November 19, 2007

Sexy dads produce sexy sons, in the insect world at least. While scientists already knew that specific attractive traits, from cricket choruses to peacocks' tails, are passed on to their offspring, the heritability of attractiveness as a whole is more contentious. Now, new research by the University of Exeter, published today (20 November) in Current Biology, shows that attractiveness is hereditary.

The research team, based on the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus, focused on the fruitfly Drosophila simulans. They paired up males and females at random and found the length of time it took for them to mate ranged from just two minutes to two hours. Female fruitflies need to make themselves accessible to males for mating to take place, so males cannot force copulation. Therefore, the speed at which mating occurs can be taken as an indication of the attractiveness of the male to his female partner.

After males had mated with around three females each, their sons who were full and half brothers, were paired with single females. Again, the time for copulation to occur was recorded. This allowed the researchers to look at the genetic component of attractiveness. They found that attractiveness is hereditary, passed on from father to son. Previous research has shown that females that mate with attractive males do not produce more offspring than those mating with less desirable males. This study indicates that one benefit females may enjoy by mating with attractive males is that they will produce 'sexy' sons, which are more likely to be successful in mating.

Dr David Hosken of the University of Exeter said: "Attractiveness probably can't be defined by individual characteristics, so there is no single physical attribute that female fruitflies are looking for in a mate. However, there is clearly a benefit to females in having sexy sons that are more likely to attract a mate and produce offspring."

Having now shown that attractiveness can be passed on from father to son, the research team believes that the findings could apply to other species. Although not tested, Dr Hosken believes his findings could be applied to humans: "It's possible that attractiveness is hereditable across the animal kingdom. It could even be the case in humans that the sexiest dads also have the most desirable sons, which would probably be bad news for my boy."
-end-
This research was funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Notes to editors

The Natural Environment Research Council funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. It is tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. NERC receives around £400m a year from the government's science budget which is used to provide independent research and training in the environmental sciences.

University of Exeter

Related Attractiveness Articles from Brightsurf:

Is being generous the next beauty trend?
Research from Indiana University found that more attractive people are more likely to be givers, and givers are rated as more attractive.

Unattainable standards of beauty for today's woman
While the average American woman's waist circumference and dress size has increased over the past 20 years, Victoria's Secret fashion models have become more slender, with a decrease in bust, waist, hips and dress size, though their waist to hip ratio (WHR) has remained constant.

Study finds companies may be wise to share cybersecurity efforts
Research finds that when one company experiences a cybersecurity breach, other companies in the same field also become less attractive to investors.

Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner according to a new international study
One of the top qualities that we look for in a long-term partner is kindness, according to new research by Swansea University.

What do the red 'ornaments' of female macaques mean?
Scientists demonstrated that, contrary to what had been assumed for several years, colour variations among female macaques do not precisely indicate the time of ovulation.

Backed in black: How to get people to buy more produce
Researchers may have figured out the secret to get people to buy more fresh produce: dress veggies up in black.

Facial plastic surgery in men enhances perception of attractiveness, trustworthiness
In the first of a kind study, plastic surgeons at Georgetown University found that when a man chose to have facial plastic surgery, it significantly increased perceptions of attractiveness, likeability, social skills, or trustworthiness.

Is facial cosmetic surgery associated with perception changes for attractiveness, masculinity, personality traits in men?
Photographs of 24 men before and after facial cosmetic surgery were part of this survey study to examine whether surgery was associated with perceived changes in attractiveness, masculinity and a variety of personality traits.

Commentary asks: What constitutes beauty and how is it perceived?
Beauty has many facets. Research shows there are many biological, psychological, cultural and social aspects that influence how beauty and attractiveness are perceived.

Gender bias sways how we perceive competence in faces
Faces that are seen as competent are also perceived as more masculine, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Read More: Attractiveness News and Attractiveness Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.