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Sex Signals Of Animals Not Always Passed On From Generation To Generation

First Posted: Aug 19, 2015 10:51 PM EDT
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Though animal sex signals were thought to be passed down from generation to generation, new research conducted at Michigan State University shows that this may not always be the case.

"This means that certain organisms, particularly those that rely on signaling to do any mating or to tell their species apart from others, may be in more danger of extinction or hybridizing with another species if they lose signals, particularly because signal loss can happen so fast," Emily Weigel, co-lead author and doctoral candidate with MSU's BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, said in a news release

"In nature, it looks like signaling can still disappear, not just a sometimes but often," Weigel added. "And we don't have a good understanding of exactly how and why it is lost in many populations."

In this recent study, researchers evolved populations in Avida--a software environment developed at MSU in which self-replicating computer programs compete and evolve, according to researchers. Their digital populations varied in different combinations of these characteristics.

Findings revealed that typically, signaling is tough to lose in some scenarios. However, this isn't always the case. Based on how strongly the receiver prefers the signal may largely determine whether signals get lost or not. Furthermore, the factors of option or required signaling ultimately turned out to alter the importance of every other factor, with some factors including the detection of a mating call in a loud environment or an extra noise that may render an animal helpless.

"So, when we're looking at nature, a lot of the loss might have to do with the specific pressures on an organism from its social and physical environment, and whether its biology allows for wiggle-room," Weigel said.

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