These past few days I’ve been slightly perturbed by some newly-published research into the behaviour and genetics of fruit flies from the University of New South Wales.
According to recent media reports, it seems that the characteristics of offspring may not necessarily be inherited from a combination of the genes of the mother and father who respectively supplied the actual physical egg and sperm. The University of New South Wales’s research leads to the conclusion that a female fruit fly’s offspring – in size terms at least – resemble more the first male that she ever mated with, rather than the male she mated with to produce a specific child.
Apparently this discovery is the first time that ‘telegony’ [the word used to describe the phenomenon of a female’s first mate somehow determining the characteristics of her offspring] has been scientifically proved to occur in the animal kingdom. Previously – although hypothesised by Aristotle and widely-held view in medieval times – from a scientific perspective it had been thought to be a myth.
The theory runs that the molecules in the sperm of a female’s first mate somehow becomes absorbed into her immature eggs and thereby influences the characteristics of her future offspring.
See here for a representative example of such a media report, from science correspondent Sarah Knapton in the – DAILY TELEGRAPH
Ms Knapton states that the University of New South Wales researchers do not yet know for certain whether this fruit fly revelation also applies to other species, including human beings.
Since I first read of this study, I have been doing a lot of thinking.
Firstly, along the lines that – in contemplating the list of potential or actual previous partners that the mother of my children might have had before yours truly – this phenomenon might explain quite a lot, e.g. the fact that, although I stand barely five foot six tall in my Homer Simpson socks, my daughters are six feet two and six feet three respectively.
Secondly, upon the theme that (thinking back to my boisterous student and early twenty-something days) there may be certain number of ladies who, unknown to either them or myself, may have been passing on the Nelson sporting and artistic genius to literally tens of people born anywhere from 1970 onwards.
Who might these fortunate beings be?
Which of England’s test cricketers … politicians … football stars … leading figures in the acting, art, classical music and ballet world … or indeed greatest living novelists … might have my genes and blood inadvertently coursing through their veins?
My readers may have reached this point before me, but I can anticipate certain complications arising from any well-meaning attempt to ‘make myself known’ to all those ladies who – briefly or otherwise – may have exchange bodily fluids with me, so that I might perhaps meet those luminaries amongst their offspring who have subsequently and indirectly benefited from my character-defining input.
It would have to be done discreetly, of course. Some ladies might not wish to be reminded of their past, especially not if their later (and/or current) partners either have no knowledge of the illustrious predecessor in their wife’s bedroom and/or might have their self-esteem terminally destroyed by any comparison with my Alpha Male attributes.
Equally, there might be implications for the distribution of my vast estate upon the unlikely occurrence of my demise. The various bequests now listed in my will – including the £250k commission of a forty foot statue to stand in Woking’s main shopping centre in my honour – may be at risk if a horde of indirect descendants suddenly appear on the scene demanding their metaphorical pound of flesh.