(Telegraph) Could previous lovers influence appearance of future children?
By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent 1:00PM BST 01 Oct 2014
Scientists have proved that, in fruit flies at least, offspring can resemble a mother’s previous mate
The idea that the physical traits of previous sexual partners could be passed on to future children was hypothesised by Aristotle and formed part of the reason that kings were banned from marrying divorcees.
But the birth of genetics dismissed ‘telegony’ as a superstition which had no basis in science.
Now, however, an intriguing new study suggests children may resemble a mother’s previous sexual partner 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.
It is the first time that telegony has been proved in the animal kingdom.
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.
“Just as we think we have things figured out, nature throws us a curve ball and shows us how much we still have to learn,” says lead author Dr Angela Crean.
“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,” she says.