In a beetle species. From ScienceDaily:
The burying beetle is intimately involved in raising its children, including regurgitating food to its begging offspring.
Behavioral scientists predicted that genetic changes occur over time to develop parenting in a species. Based on this hypothesis, Moore’s team sequenced and assembled the genome of the burying beetle and measured the abundance of neuropeptides. They theorized that behaviors related to parenting stemmed from alterations in existing genes rather than the evolution of new ones.
Their prediction proved correct;
“When new traits evolve, evolution tends to modify existing genetic pathways rather than create new genes,” Moore said.
The research, Moore said, suggests that many of the genes influencing parenting will be the same across many species. The commonality among organisms will help researchers identify genetic pathways important to parenting. Paper. (public access) – Christopher B. Cunningham, Majors J. Badgett, Richard B. Meagher, Ron Orlando, Allen J. Moore. Ethological principles predict the neuropeptides co-opted to influence parenting. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14225 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14225 More.
Species differ widely in their approach, if any, to parenting. The critical question is whether parenting depends on the identified modifications in any significant number of species and whether species that don’t parent also have them. Could one cause non-parent-minded species to become parent-minded by inserting the genes? It will take a lot of further work to show that this sequence is a specific, critical one.
Would it work with deadbeat human parents? Would it be ethical?
See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds
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