News Release

Study in Royal Society journal on heritability of female orgasm

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Royal Society

Biology Letters

Genetic influences on variation in female orgasmic function: a twin study by Dr KM Dunn, Dr LF Cherkas and Prof TD Spector (DOI: rsbl.2005.0308 Ref: 05BL0033)
Women in the general population commonly report difficulty achieving orgasm, but the causes of this are unclear as are the reasons for the large variations between women. One possible explanation is a role for genes. 4037 female twins from the TwinsUK register were surveyed confidentially about sexual problems. A sizeable genetic influence was seen on ability to orgasm during intercourse or masturbation. These results show for the first time that the ability to orgasm in females has a genetic basis and cannot be attributed solely to cultural influences. These results should stimulate further research into female sexual function.
Contact: Dr Kate Dunn, Primary Care Sciences Research Centre, Keele University, KEELE, ST5 5BG, United Kingdom

Avian collision risk at an offshore wind farm by Mark Desholm and Johnny Kahlert
The fast development of wind power production into marine areas has caused great public concerns for the possible lethal effects on waterbirds. The present radar study documents a substantial avoidance response by migrating waterbirds to a large offshore wind farm. A larger proportion of the birds fly between the turbines at night compared to day time, but counteract this higher risk of colliding with the turbines in the dark by keeping a longer distance to individual turbines. Overall, less than 1% of the ducks and geese fly close enough to the turbines to be at any risk of collision.
Contact: Mark Desholm, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, National Environmental Research Institute, Grenåvej, 12, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark.

Image content influences men's semen quality by Ms SJK Kilgallon and Professor LWS Simmons
When females mate with more than one male sperm from each male must compete to fertilize eggs. Studies of animals show that males increase the quality and quantity of sperm ejaculated under sperm competition. We show that human males respond in a similar manner. When viewing images depicting situations of sperm competition men have a greater proportion of motile sperm in their ejaculate. Within our study we examined a number of lifestyle factors that can influence semen quality. Amongst these the storage of mobile phones near the testes was found to decrease semen quality.
Contact: Professor LWS Simmons, School of Animal Biology (M092), The University of Western Australia, CRAWLEY, 6009, Australia

Novel male trait prolongs survival in suicidal mating MCB Andrade, L. Gu and JA Stoltz
To maximize reproduction, male redback spiders must solicit a cannibalistic attack from their mate during copulation, but survive partial consumption long enough to copulate twice. We describe a novel trait that ensures males survive substantial wounding inflicted by females during the first copulation. A constriction of the male's body, appearing during courtship, increases the endurance of wounded males and allows a second courtship and copulation. The protective effect of the constriction is specific to wounding from partial cannibalism. With this trait, male redbacks maximize the reproductive payoff of their suicidal mating strategy by prolonging their own consumption over two copulations.
Contact: Dr Dr MCB Andrade, Department of Life Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Integrative Behaviour & Neuroscience Group, TORONTO, ON M1C 1A4, Canada

Does metabolic rate at rest and during flight scale with body mass in insects? by Dr JE Niven and Dr JPW Scharlemann
The metabolic rate of an animal has major implications for its physiology and ecology. Although metabolic rate correlates with body mass, the exact scaling relationship for animals has been debated for over 100 years. Using measurements from 76 years of studies on insects, we show that scaling of resting metabolic rate with body mass is close to that predicted from changes in surface area to volume ratio. Surprisingly, during flight small and large insects appeared to have different metabolic rates, suggesting small insects may be saving energy compared to their larger counterparts. These relationships question current ideas of metabolic scaling in animals and may provide insights into metabolic scaling in other groups of animals.
Contact: Dr JE Niven, Physiological Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EG

Extreme spatial variability in marine picoplankton and its consequences for interpreting Eulerian time-series by Adrian P. Martin, Mikhail V. Zubkov, Peter H. Burkill and Ross J. Holland
Plankton are fundamental constituents of the marine ecosystem. Seasonal fluctuations in their abundance are therefore of great interest. This is usually monitored by frequently sampling water at a fixed point in the ocean throughout the year. To interpret such "time-series it is generally necessary to assume that any trends seen result from growth and death at that location, not from populations produced elsewhere being swept through the site by currents. Our results demonstrate that for some of the smallest (but most important globally) plankton this assumption may not be valid. Spatial variability in plankton may therefore constitute a serious contamination of time-series data.
Contact: Dr Adrian Martin, George Deacon Division, Southampton Oceanography Centre, , European Way, SOUTHAMPTON, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Models of Foot-and-Mouth Disease by Dr MJ Keeling (rspb.2004.3046)
In 2001 the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease had a devastating impact on the UK livestock industry and highlighted the industry's susceptibility to such highly transmissible infections. During the epidemic, mathematical models were used in a predictive role to gauge the effects of various control measures. Here, the uses and abuses of models in general are discussed, before the three models that were used during the 2001 outbreak are critically reviewed. Finally, being as models will probably be utilised in any future epidemic we consider the lessons that can be learned from 2001 and the advances possible in the coming years.
Contact: Dr MJ Keeling, Department of Biological Sciences & Maths Institute, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, COVENTRY, CV4 7AL

Prey survival by predator intimidation – an experimental study of peacock butterfly defence against blue tits by Dr A Vallin, Dr S Jakobsson, Dr J Lind and Professor C Wiklund (rspb.2004.3034)
The evidence for the intimidating qualities of butterfly eyespots has so far been anecdotal. The peacock butterfly, Inachis io, is perfectly edible and harmless. But when harassed it suddenly exposes conspicuous eyespots and produces a hissing sound. We manipulated peacocks in six different ways to test the adaptive value of the eyespots and the hissing sound when the butterflies were attacked by blue tits, Parus caeruleus. The results showed that eyespots alone and in combination with sound constituted an effective defence. This indicates that bold displaying can be enough to protect an otherwise harmless prey.
Contact: Dr Adrian Vallin, Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Stockholm University, STOCKHOLM, SE-10691, Sweden

Effects of early experience on female behavioral and reproductive development in rhesus macaques by Dr D Maestripieri (rspb.2005.3059)
This study reports sex differences in interest in infants among juvenile rhesus macaques similar to those observed in human children and adolescents. In humans early exposure to psychosocial stress may accelerate female reproductive development and result in early puberty and early interest infants. This study shows that early exposure to harsh and inconsistent maternal care is associated with greater interest in infants among rhesus macaque juvenile females. These effects of early experience appear to be mediated by long-term alterations in physiological systems that regulate arousability and responsiveness to stress. These findings shed new light on biological and social influences on reproductive development.
Contacts: Dr D Maestripieri, Animal Behaviour Research Group, University of Chicago, 5730 S. Woodlawn Avenue, CHICAGO, IL, 60637, USA

Evidence for pollinator sharing in Mediterranean nectar mimic orchids: absence of premating barriers? By Professor S Cozzolino, dr FP Schiestl, dr A Muller, dr O De Castro, dr A Nardella and Pr A Widmer (rspb.2005.3069)
The intricate and specialized orchid-pollinator interaction has always been particularly attractive for scientists and general public. Our study adds a new perspective to the widely held view that orchid-pollinator fidelity is the main rule in orchid evolution. We show that many deceptive temperate orchids, when occur in sympatry, may share pollinators. As consequence, other post-mating isolation mechanisms than pollinator specificity should play a key role in maintaining species boundaries in these orchids. We believe that our results will provide an important new impetus for research on orchid reproductive isolation and will attract wide interest from scientists and the lay public.
Contact: Professor S Cozzolino, Dipartimento di biologia vegetale, Universita di Napoli, via Foria 223, NAPOLI, 80139, Italy

Habitat structure and the dispersal of male and female bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus ) by Ms A Natoli, Dr A Birkun, Dr A Aguilar, Dr A Lopez and Dr AR Hoelzel (rspb.2005.3076)
The bottlenose dolphin is a social species that exploits local resources in habitat-specific ways, such as the population that pursues fish against mud banks in the western North Atlantic. Here we use genetic markers to identify patterns of gene flow for a contiguous distribution of dolphins from the Black Sea to the North Sea. We find genetic populations that are defined by natural habitat boundaries, indicating at least five populations along this geographic range. We suggest that social facilitation of habitat-specific foraging strategies restricts gene flow and leads to the genetic differentiation of populations in local habitat patches.
Contacts: Dr AR Hoelzel, Biological Sciences, Durham University, South Road, DURHAM, DH1 3LE

Epibiotic microbes as food and defense for marine isopods: unique symbioses in a hostile environment by Dr N Lindquist, Dr PH Barber and Mr. JB Weisz (rspb.2005.3082)
Intimate, mutually beneficial relationships between two organisms called symbioses greatly influence the diversity of life. In the oceans, the most commonly recognized symbioses, such as the unicellular algae living within coral tissues, have a nutritional foundation. Our studies on coral reefs have discovered small isopod crustaceans covered with a thick carpet of microalgae and bacteria. These small symbionts produce distasteful chemicals that protect the colorful and vulnerable isopods from being eaten by fish. Defensive symbioses like this, although largely unknown in the oceans, are likely common and promote biodiversity by allowing symbiont-protected hosts to thrive in habitats teeming with potential predators.
Contact: Dr N Lindquist, Institute of Marine Sciences, UNC Chapel Hill, 3431 Arendell Street, MOREHEAD CITY, NORTH CARO, 28557, United States

Supply-side invasion ecology: characterizing propagule pressure in coastal ecosystems by Dr E Verling, Dr GM Ruiz, Dr LD Smith, Dr B Galil, Dr AW Miller and Ms KR Murphy (rspb.2005.3090)
Ballast water carried by ships for stability is a leading mechanism for the unintentional introduction of Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) to ports worldwide. The risk of a NIS becoming established in a new region is influenced by the number of individuals of that species delivered. We show that the volume and source of ballast water is different among ship types and recipient ports, and that survivorship within ballast tanks differs among voyage routes and with time. This variation in the quantity and quality of organisms delivered by ships is central to predicting invasion dynamics.
Contact: Dr E Verling, Marine Invasions Research Laboratory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 647 Contees Wharf Road, EDGEWATER, MD 21037, United States

Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

Persistence of synchronization under environmental noise by T Caraballo and PE Kloeden
When deterministic systems with asymptotically stable steady state (i.e. constant) solutions are synchronized through linear dissipative coupling, the synchronized dynamics has an asymptotically stable steady state solution. As the coupling parameter increases without bound, this solution looks more and more like the two dimensional cartesian product of the steady state solution of the average of the original systems. In this article it is shown that a similar situation occurs in the presence of additive noise, which essentially models background or environmental disturbances. Now the systems are described by stochastic differential equations rather than ordinary differential equations and stationary stochastic processes play the role of steady state solutions. Indeed, the synchronization of the dissipative systems persists regardless of how large the intensity of the additive noise is.
Contact: Professor T Caraballo, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Seville, 41080 Seville, Spain.


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.