The bird that may explain why people are unfaithful

It may not work for Ryan Giggs but as a get-out clause for philandering finches it is just about perfect: I can't help cheating, it's in my genes.

Scientists studying the sexual behaviour of zebra finches have discovered that promiscuity is passed down through generations, providing an insight into how an animal's genetic make-up may influence its willingness to take multiple partners.

Like mourning doves and swans, zebra finches generally form lifelong relationships with a single partner. But small numbers of males and females indulge in frequent extramarital sex.

Such behaviour among monogamous species has often puzzled ornithologists. While the benefits of cheating for the males is clear – offering them an opportunity to spread their genes further than fidelity would permit – females who play away run considerable risks, including the loss of their lifelong partner and a greater vulnerability to sexual diseases.

A new study by German scientists now suggests that cheating among finches may be genetic, with the female offspring of philandering finches much more likely to cheat than their monogamous counterparts.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen spent eight years recording the sexual behaviour of a captive population of more than 1,500 finches over five generations. The behaviour was documented on video and then genetic paternity tests were used to determine which finches had sired the most offspring. Unsurprisingly, finches that chose multiple partners tended to sire the largest number of offspring. But their female offspring were also much more likely to cheat.

Wolfgang Forstmeier, one of the study's lead researchers, believes the results highlight how genetic make-up plays a crucial role in dictating sexual-behaviour traits and even passes between the sexes. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral