Animals that care for young may have more mutations and evolve faster

An experiment in beetles shows that when parents care for their young, the population accumulates more mutations over time, but this may have benefits


30 January 2023

Burying beetle

Adult burying beetles sometimes look after their offspring

Andrew Newman Nature Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

An evolution experiment involving beetles has provided the first direct evidence that caring for offspring results in the accumulation of more genetic mutations in a population.

Some of the mutations are likely to be harmful, but there is also a positive side, as having more variation may allow populations to adapt and evolve more quickly when circumstances change.

“You’re holding in a lot of deleterious stuff,” says Rahia Mashoodh at the University of Cambridge. “But also, you’re holding in potentially a lot …

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