(Editor’s note: This study was conducted a couple years ago but was fascinating and we thought you might be interested. Enjoy!)
According to a study completed in 2014, University of New South Wales Australia scientists Dr. Angela Crean, Professor Russell Bonduriansky, and Dr. Anna Kopps discovered a new non-genetic form of inheritance in flies which confirmed that, at least in flies, offspring can show characteristics of their mom’s previous sex partners! This kind of inheritance is called telegony.
Researchers believe this is because molecules in the seminal fluid of the first mate are absorbed by the female’s immature eggs. Later, when those eggs have matured and are used, they influence “the growth of offspring of a subsequent mate.”1 (Previous studies have already shown that semen from multiple males can interact to influence reproductive outcomes.)
While the idea of telegony goes back to Aristotle, it was discredited in the 20th century because of our new understanding of genetics. But, this study proves that telegony deserves more study. A thought echoed by one of the study’s authors, Dr. Crean:
“There is no evidence of such effects in humans, but there has not been any research on this possibility in humans. There is a potential for such effects in mammals. For example, there is a lot of foetal DNA in maternal blood during pregnancy, and this could potentially play a role in such effects. There is also evidence in mammals that seminal fluid affects offspring development, so semen from one male could potentially influence the development of eggs fertilized by another male (which is what we think is happening in flies).” 2
For obvious ethical reasons, it’s unlikely scientists will ever try this in human studies but, ain’t science interesting?
Happy almost Friday! XO- Erin