Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Inheritance of lifespan is sex-dependent in fruit flies

Researchers from Bielefeld and Uppsala publish joint study

Like mother, like daughter; like father, like son. Evolutionary biologists at the universities in Bielefeld and Uppsala (Sweden) have now shown that this proverb also applies to inheriting a long life – at least for fruit flies (Drosophila).

The research team found that the descendants of these insects mostly inherit their lifespan from their own sex: male descendants will very probably live about as long as their fathers; female descendants, about as long as their mothers. The scientists are publishing their findings on Thursday 12 September in the renowned journal „American Naturalist”.

The new study by the German–Swedish research team has turned a previous assumption by biologists and physicians upside down: up to now, they had thought that the genetic risk of a disease was equally strong in both female and male descendants.

The study proceeded from the assumption that the average life expectancy of women and men differs –this may be for genetic reasons but also due to different lifestyles. The German–Swedish research team wanted to find out how far this sex difference in the lifespan depends on the genetic make-up.

To carry out their experiments, the researchers intervened in the heredity of fruit flies by cross-breeding them with special fly mutants. This enabled them to breed 50 hemi-clones; that is, groups of individuals in whom one-half of the genetic make-up is absolutely identical, whereas the other half is completely unrelated. From each hemi-clone, the researchers determined the lifespan of 400 females and 400 males. ‘What’s special about this approach is that it enables us to measure the influence of this 50 per cent identical genetic make-up in both sexes’, says Dr. Holger Schielzeth from the Faculty of Biology – one of the authors of the study.

The authors then used the data from the hemi-cloned fruit flies to read off how similar the individuals in a hemi-clone are and how far females and males from one hemi-clone share the same lifespan. Results showed that the lifespan was very similar within sexes, whereas the calculated relation between sexes was only slight. Hence, Methuselah genes in the father exert only a limited influence on female descendants – at least in fruit flies. Vice versa, particularly long-lived females do not necessarily have long-lived brothers, fathers, or sons. Approximately three-quarters of the genetic components of life expectation are effective only within the same sex.

The researchers conclude that the risk of a fatal hereditary disease is passed on above all within the same sex. ‘Gene variants that could be problematic for one sex seem to have only a comparatively low influence on the life expectation of the other sex’, says Holger Schielzeth. In principle, this finding could also generalize to human beings, because human life expectancy is also hereditary. According to Schielzeth, this sex-specific heredity may also be relevant for medicine, and that therapies should pay more attention to sex-specific risks.

Original publication:
Anne Lehtovaara, Holger Schielzeth, Ilona Flis, and Urban Friberg: Heritability of lifespan is largely sex-limited in Drosophila, American Naturalist,, published online on 12 September 2013.

Dr. Holger Schielzeth, Bielefeld University
Faculty of Biology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
Telephone: 0049 521 106-2820

Ingo Lohuis | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>