Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Natural selection in a nutshell

13.11.2003


Super squirrel moms provide silver spoon beginnings



If they could, many women would likely take a page out of the red squirrel’s book. The northern animal can not only decide when its babies are born in the season but how many brothers and sisters will be in a litter, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists.

But not all female squirrels have these "super mom" capabilities whose genes are wired with these traits--there are "dud moms" in the population as well, report Dr. Stan Boutin and Dr. Andrew McAdam in the current edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. The research team addressed how much influence a mother has on her babies’ well-being verus the role the environment plays.


"Everybody knew that the care a mother provides was important," said McAdam, who conducted the work in Boutin’s lab at the U of A before moving to the University of California. "But no one has been able to actually show proof of this in the wild before this. We now know which specific traits are contributing to evolution."

The understanding of how characteristics evolve or change is often limited because measuring inheritance in the wild is difficult. Boutin was able to address this issue because he has been monitoring a large squirrel population--approximately 400 adults--since 1989 and because he was able to take some squirrels away from one mother and give them to another (cross-foster).

"We found that the growth rates in young squirrels are determined partly by genes in the offspring--nature--but mostly by the quality of care provided by their mother--nurture," said Boutin, from the Faculty of Science. "We also found that the ability of mothers to care for their offspring is also determined partly by genes. As such, we have quantified the nature of nurture."

Boutin likens what is happening with the red squirrel to the familiar saying that a child is born with a silver spoon in her mouth, suggesting the child is blessed with special conditions that allow her to do well for the rest of her life. The silver spoon refers to the environment during early childhood, he said.

"We questioned how much of this environment is due to luck of the draw--the young happen to be born when times are good--and how much is controlled by the mother."

Two environmental conditions important to offspring growth were the litter size and the time of the birth (late winter or early spring). These conditions are determined by the mother and her "decisions" are affected by the food supply and the genes she carries for litter size and birth date. "In other words, there appear to be "super moms" that are capable of creating a favourable environment…they are, in effect, putting a silver spoon in their children’s mouths.

There is a catch--the super moms and their offspring are only successful when the food supply is good. When times are tough, dud moms actually have youngsters that are more successful. "In other words, the big house, big car, fast life-style works well when the economy is humming along but this may not be the best strategy when the economy slumps and conservatism is a better strategy.

"Our work suggest that there are genes that code for the fast vs slow lifestyle so decisions about how we live are affected by both the environment and our genetic make-up."

Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ualberta.ca/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>