It was long believed that physical characteristics acquired by organisms during their lifetime could not be passed on to their offspring. However, in recent years, the theory of inheritance of acquired traits has gained support, with studies showing how offspring of rats and tiny worms inherit behaviours that were acquired by their parents in response to particular environmental stimuli, even when the stimulus is no longer present in the offspring’s generation.
This theory is further supported by recent studies conducted by NUS researchers, in which they found that the inheritance of acquired traits also happens in butterflies, especially in the bush brown butterfly Bicyclus anynana.
Two research teams supervised by Associate Professor Antónia Monteiro, who is from NUS Biological Sciences and Yale-NUS College, showed that both Bicyclus anynana caterpillars and adult butterflies can learn to prefer new odours if they are exposed to them during their development or early in life. The researchers also found that the offspring of the exposed caterpillars and butterflies show the same new preferences as their parents, even though they were not exposed themselves, indicating that their parents have passed their new acquired preferences to their children.
Read the full story from the National University of Singapore.