Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Chimpanzees Choose Genetic Opposites as Mates

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Chimpanzees Choose Genetic Opposites as Mates

Article excerpt

Casual sex is common among chimpanzees. Our closest animal relatives mate with multiple partners. But when taking the plunge into parenthood, they're more selective. A study reveals that chimps are more likely to reproduce with mates whose genetic makeup most differs from their own.

Many animals avoid breeding with parents, siblings, and other close relatives, said researcher Kara Walker of Duke University. But chimpanzees are unusual in that even among nonrelatives and virtual strangers, they discriminate between genetically similar mates and more distant ones. The researchers aren't sure yet exactly how they discriminate, but it might be a best guess based on appearance, smell, or sound.

Researchers took DNA samples from the feces of roughly 150 adult chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and analyzed 8 to 11 variable sites across the genome. From these, they could estimate the genetic similarity between every possible male-female pair.

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In chimpanzees, as in other animals, only some sexual encounters lead to offspring. When the researchers compared pairs that produced infants with those that didn't, they found that females conceived with sires that were less similar to them than the average male. …

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