Saturday 10 December 2016

Why philandering finches fly in face of convention

Jerome Taylor

Published 15/06/2011 | 05:00

IT may not work for Ryan Giggs but as a get-out clause for philandering finches it is perfect: I can't help cheating, it's my genes.

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Scientists studying the sexual behaviour of zebra finches found promiscuity is passed down through generations, providing an insight into how an animal's genetic make-up may influence its willingness to take multiple partners.

Zebra finches form lifelong relationships with a single partner. But small numbers indulge in frequent extramarital sex. Such behaviour among monogamous species has puzzled ornithologists.

A new study by German scientists now suggests that cheating among finches may be genetic, with the female offspring of philandering finches much more likely to cheat than their monogamous counterparts.

Researchers Seewiesen spent eight years recording the sexual behaviour of more than 1,500 finches over five generations. Paternity tests were used to determine which finches had sired the most offspring. Unsurprisingly, finches that chose multiple partners tended to sire the largest number of offspring. But their female offspring were also much more likely to cheat, suggesting that the willingness to do so is highly influenced by genes.

Irish Independent

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