Male DNA: The Gift That Might Just Keep on Giving


WE ALL HAVE a lover or two in our past who we’re thrilled isn’t in our present, whether it’s someone we still think about occasionally with a thank-God-I-dodged-that-bullet sigh of relief, or someone we’ve tried to totally erase from our memories. Well, even if your exes aren’t affecting your daily thoughts and emotions anymore, new research suggests that they could possibly have something to with the DNA of your future children. As if you didn’t have enough baggage to deal with already.

So far the studies on this phenomenon have only been conducted on fruit flies, but they freakishly suggest that DNA from sperm sticks around in there and influences the development of the mother’s offspring. A study that was done at the University of New South Wales found that the size of a fruit fly at birth was determined by the first man-fly the female mated with, not the most recent one or the one whose sperm successfully reached its destination. Researchers’ best suggestion is that every time the fruit flies mate, molecules from the male’s semen get absorbed into the eggs of the female, while they wait and cook until their official big moment of fertilization.

The potential implications of this, if it holds true for humans to any extent as well, are pretty insane. And before you brush this off as “Well, they’re flies, they can’t possibly have the same reproductive systems as humans do,” well, one of the reasons that geneticists love to experiment on Drosophila melanogaster, aside from the ease of evolving them due to their short life-spans, is that fruit flies share 75% of the genes that cause disease with humans. Meaning, they’re not as alien to us as we might think at first blush. And this isn’t the first time this possibility has been considered either; Aristotle hypothesized this very bizarre thing, which was part of the reason why kings were not allowed to marry divorcees back when the legitimacy of royal lineage was a very real concern. The concept is properly called telegony, but in layman’s terms is thought of as too much random sperm up in the mix.

For now though, researchers feel confident that this kind of phenomenon is very unlikely to occur in humans, and we shouldn’t assume that our children are made up of a mixture of our exes until they conduct similar studies on mammals. In other words, don’t lose any sleep over that regrettable fling that one summer, or use this as a way to explain to your baby daddy why his child looks nothing like him and bears a striking resemblance to your high school sweetheart… whom you happened to run into right around the time you conceived.

Incidentally, there is a different aspect to the theory of telegony that might be a little more likely to occur and whose effects could be felt more directly, in that behavioral changes, as opposed to biological ones, influenced by past lovers can affect our future offspring. For example, if your ex-boyfriend was filthy rich and supported you financially, your body might be in better shape for making a baby than someone without money. Again, somewhat complicated, but everything affects something else in some way, even if we don’t see the lines drawn from A to B, so it’s not a completely crazy thought.

Either way, it’s strange to consider how your any of your lovers might play into your future, especially when we’ve been living under the impression that once we’re done, we’re done. Add that to the list of things to consider when you’re flipping through Tinder.

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