Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and scientist born in 384 BC, was the first to hypothesize that an individual does not only inherit traits from his parents but also from other males from whom his/her mother had a previous pregnancy. This theory, known as telegony, was fully accepted at the time and for many years to come.
Telegony, however, is inconsistent with our current understanding of heredity and genetics. Or, at least it has been until recently. Experiments on several species, in the past, failed to prove any evidence that offsprings would inherit any characteristic from their mother’s previous mates and the idea was also rejected based on a statistical investigation of parent-offspring resemblance in human families.
Scientists at the University of New South Wales, though, made an intriguing new discovery; they proved telegony does exist in the animal kingdom. More specifically, they found that in fruit flies the size of the young was determined by the size of the first male the mother mated with, rather than the male that sired the offspring.
How can that be possible? Scientists suggest that it is all down to molecules in the semen of the first mate being absorbed by the female’s immature eggs that ultimately influence future offspring.
“We don’t know yet whether this applies to other species,” explains author of the study, Dr Angela Crean. And continues “we know that features that run in families are not just influenced by the genes that are passed down from parents to their children. Various non-genetic inheritance mechanisms make it possible for environmental factors to influence characteristics of a child.”
Where does this new discovery leaves us women? The possibility of our unborn children resembling our ex- partners can be the story of a new horror movie. Still, researchers believe that such a thing is highly unlikely to occur in humans as our reproductive system is different than those of insects.
(Source: The Guardian)