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Babies Can Inherit Traits of Mother's Ex-Lovers

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 09:52 PM EDT

Don't look like your dad? You might look like your mother's previous lover, according to new research.

A new study on flies shows for the first time that offspring can look like their mother's previous sexual partner. 

The newly discovered form of non-genetic inheritance proves that our ancient Greek ancestors might be right: telegony does exist.

Researchers Dr. Angela Crean, Professor Russell Bonduriansky and Dr. Anna Kopps studied the offspring of genetically engineered male flies. The study revealed shocking results. The study revealed that the size of the offspring was determined by the size of the first male the mother mated with, rather than the last male that sired the offspring.

"Our discovery complicates our entire view of how variation is transmitted across generations, but also opens up exciting new possibilities and avenues of research. Just as we think we have things figured out, nature throws us a curve ball and shows us how much we still have to learn," lead author Crean said in a news release.

Crean and her team said theorize telegony happens when the female's immature eggs absorbs molecules in the seminal fluid of her first mate. The absorption would therefore influence the development the offspring of later mates.

"We found that even though the second male sired the offspring, offspring size was determined by what the mother's previous mating partner ate as a maggot," explained Crean.

"Our new findings take this to a whole new level - showing a male can also transmit some of his acquired features to offspring sired by other males," she said. "But we don't know yet whether this applies to other species."

The findings were published in the journal Ecology Letters.

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