Chimps Know How To Avoid Inbreeding Depression

First Posted: Jan 13, 2017 03:20 AM EST

The consequences of inbreeding depression in humans or any other animals are severe and catastrophic for the survival of the whole population. Somehow chimps know that, too.

A recent study suggests that they choose genetically dissimilar chimps to reproduce. More importantly, the likelihood of conceiving is also considerably high with genetically dissimilar partners as compared to the partners made within the same family or families of siblings.

Humans prefer to choose their partners with similar genetic makeup, a practice known as assortative mating. It is believed that it will help in passing desirable traits to their offspring. But on the flip side, it also leads to the passage of harmful traits to their offspring. In the absence of different alleles for the harmful gene copy, the undesirable trait gets concentrated in the entire population and increase the vulnerability of an entire population towards particular pathogens or diseases, ZME Science reported.

Kara Walker, evolutionary anthropology researcher at Duke University, found that chimps that are the closest living relatives of humans follow negative assortative mating and prefer to establish sexual relationships with male chimps that are genetically different and unrelated.

Kara Walker and her team of researchers studied the mating patterns of 150 adult chimps living in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. The DNA samples from the study group of chimps were comparatively analyzed for the presence or absence of around 8 to 11 genetically variable sites, to estimate the genetic similarity or dissimilarity between mated pair of chimps.

Laboratory Equipment reported that the results of the study were published online in the Royal Society Open Science journal. These suggest that though chimps get down with different partners, every time it happens does not lead to offspring production. The female chimps conceive when mated with genetically dissimilar male chimps. This may be the reason why adolescent female chimps leave their family tree in search of different families where they can establish sexual relationships with male chimps and produce baby chimps. Researchers believe that this behavior is due to their inherent knowledge of the possible consequences of inbreeding depression.

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