Sex signals fast disappearing in animals: Study

New York, Aug 23 (IANS) Mating signals in animal, passed down from generation to generation, were thought to be beneficial for healthy reproduction. However, these signals are fast disappearing in offspring, suggests a new study.

Sending signals to the opposite sex is not always a trait that is passed on to animals’ offspring, researchers from the Michigan State University found.

“This means that certain organisms may be in more danger of extinction or hybridizing with another species if they lose sex signals, particularly because signal loss can happen so fast,” explained Emily Weigel, co-lead author and a doctoral candidate at the university.

The advantages of signalling to one another should mean that generation after generation the animals retain and keep signalling.

That may not be the case anymore.

In nature, it looks like signalling can still disappear not just sometimes but often.

“And we don’t have a good understanding of exactly how and why it is lost in many populations,” Weigel added.

To conduct the study, Weigel and her team evolved populations in Avida, a software environment in which self-replicating computer programmes compete and evolve.

Their digital populations varied in different combinations of these characteristics.

They found that signalling is indeed quite hard to lose in some scenarios, but not all.

“When we are 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 explained.

Some of these outside factors can include being able to detect a mating call in a loud environment or being rendered helpless by the extra noise, the authors noted.

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