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Could sleeping around stop extinction?

By KJ Mullins     Feb 26, 2010 in Science
The key to species survival may lay in the arms of promiscuous females according to new research out of the Universities of Exeter and Liverpool.
In most species females have multiple mates even though it puts them at risk. Scientists say polyandry, the phenomenon of females having multiple mates, is common in most animal species.
This practice is thought to reduce the risk of animal populations becoming extinct because of all-female broods being born.
Researchers used fruitflies for the study. Some of the populations were allowed to mate naturally with the females having multiple partners. The other groups were only allowed to have one mate each.
Scientists observed several generations of the fruit-flies.
Over the course of 15 generations five of the 12 populations that were monogamous became extinct. The males in these groups died out as a result of the sex-ratio distortion (SR) chromosome, which results in all of the Y chromosome 'male' sperm being killed before fertilization.
None of the populations where the females 'slept around' became extinct.
Lead author Professor Nina Wedell of the University of Exeter was quoted in Medical News Today:
"We were surprised by how quickly - within nine generations - a population could die out as a result of females only mating with one partner. Polyandry is such a widespread phenomenon in nature but it remains something of an enigma for scientists. This study is the first to suggest that it could actually save a population from extinction."
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