The notion of sharing your grandmother’s new sexual partner might seem unappealing to us, but a study of wild greater horseshoe bats reveals that female relatives regularly share male mates, yet nearly always avoid their blood relatives.
The study, published in this week’s Nature, was led by Dr Stephen Rossiter as part of a long-term collaboration between scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, and the University of Bristol. The study used genetic analysis to look at breeding patterns over 10 years in a colony of around 40 greater horseshoe bats, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, one of Britain’s rarest bats, from Gloucestershire.
The team, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, found that while a female might mate with the same male as her grandmother, she won’t mate with her own grandfather. As you might expect, things quickly get very confusing, for example, the study revealed several cases in which a female and her maternal half-aunt were also half-sisters on their father’s side!
Owen Gaffney | alfa
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