How animal genes go into battle to dominate their offspring

phys.org | 9/5/2017 | Staff
ArceusArceus (Posted by) Level 3
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She’ll be more like me than you.

The burdens of becoming parents are often shared unequally between male and female animals. This is particularly true of species that give birth to live young, where male duties such as defending the breeding territory and building dens or nests rarely compare with the ordeals of pregnancy and labour.

Animals - Imbalance - Parent - Competition - Mate

You might have thought that animals just "accept" this imbalance and get on with it. But actually, they compete over how much each parent contributes. This isn't like the competition to win a mate, with locking horns or displays of plumage. Instead this remarkable battle takes place at the level of the genes.

It now appears it may have evolved very early in animal evolution, perhaps among the first child-bearing animals. What is more, it may even help to explain why animals diversified into different lineages.

Arena - Battle - Size - Principle - Mother

One arena in which this battle plays out is over the size of offspring. In principle it's in both a mother's and father's interests to produce bigger newborns, since they are more likely to prevail in the struggle for food and survival.

Yet live-bearing females are more likely to die giving birth to larger offspring or become unable to reproduce again. Their mates needn't care – unless they are likely to sire more broods together, as with humans and certain gibbons, wolves and mice. Otherwise, the males' only concern is that their mate invests as much as possible in the offspring they produce together.

Conflict - Interests - Manifests - Ways - Nature

This common conflict of interests manifests itself in various ways in nature. Males often desert pregnant females – from birds to humans, for example – thereby leaving them with the burden of bringing up the young. More rarely, in some normally biparental species females desert males. We see this in some beetles, for example.

The genetic battle mentioned previously is another...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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