Re: Last flies finish nice! (sorry-it's supposed to be a pun on `nice guys finish last!)

Stephen E. Jones (
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 22:17:14 +0800


I'm almost starting to feel a little bit sorry for the Darwinists! Here is a
story on ABC News (USA) at:

which is based on a report in NATURE that shoes that in fruit flies at least,
it is not the first male to mate that actually sires the offspring but the
*last* one!

The same story is also reported on Yahoo! at:

Now this really *is* a huge problem for natural selection to explain. It is
like a race in which everybody tries to finish last. In such a race no one
would finish at all!

If this is found to be more generally the case, think of the Darwinists
problem in inventing a whole new set of opposite just-so stories to `explain'
the new facts! But they will do it - I have great faith in their abilities in that
area at least! :-)

Here's a start. "Natural selection now explains why the 90-pound weakling
wins in the end", said evolutionary bio-novelist Richard Jay Dennett. "It
was already recognised as a problem in the technical socio-bigotry
literature why a nerd like Bill Gates can become the world's richest man."

We now know from this latest empirical research what we have really
expected all along, that his selfish genes have evolved the brilliant trick of
pretending to make him look like the least fit, whereas in Darwinian terms
he is really the most fit!" When asked why most women still prefer 200-
pound musclemen, Dennett replied, "That's simple. The women's selfish
genes *do* recognise that the weakling is the most fit, but they have
decided it's in their best interests to keep this secret from the women."
"And the 200-pound muscleman's selfish genes haven't yet evolved to
recognise the trick", Dennett said, with a wave of his hand.


Sperm Warfare

Sperm From Promiscuous Flies Fight for Access

Sperm battle for fertilization rights, employing some hard-hitting attacks.
(A. Shepherd/

By Susan Conova

July 28 - The phrase "sperm competition" probably makes you think of the
50-yard dash.

Whoever makes it to the egg first wins, right?

Well, not necessarily. You probably also think that all these competing
sperm come from the same guy, but that's not usually the case either.

Let's face it, males and females of most species are promiscuous. And
among so-called monogamous species, only 10 percent actually remain
faithful. Mating among Drosophila melangaster involves post-sex battling
on a tiny scale. (Carolina Biological Supply Company/PNI)

Females not only sleep around and have children by different males, they
also usually mate with several males before producing a single batch of
offspring. Which means each male's sperm competes with others for access
to the female's eggs.

Sperm competition decides who gets to sire offspring. "It's a different way
to think of evolution," says Andy Clark, a biologist at Pennsylvania State
University. Most people think of evolution working on adults, but "sperm
competition occurs at the cellular level. There's an opportunity for
tremendous competition."

Last Guy Wins

The funny thing about sperm competition - unlike the 50-yard dash - is that
the last male almost always wins.

Although first males have tricks to keep their sperm in the running
"drugging" the female with a seminal fluid protein that keeps the female
from mating again, leaving a "chastity plug" behind to thwart subsequent
males, or prolonging mating for hours or days - the second male can sire
nearly all of the female's offspring.

Though the reason for the second male's success is sometimes obvious a
damselfly scoops out the previous male's sperm with his penis - it remains
hidden for most animals. "We know what goes in and we know what
comes out," says Bill Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, but the rest is a mystery.

The trick to discovering the last male's advantage lies in glowing sperm.
Before flies were genetically engineered to produce a fluorescent jellyfish
protein in their sperm tails, researchers had no way to tell one male's sperm
from another's, so determining what happened to each male's sperm was
impossible. "What they've done that no one's been able to do before is track
the sperm," says Rice.

Glow-in-the-Dark Sperm

With the green light from glowing sperm, researchers illuminated the
mystery in fruit flies to find an answer. They surprised themselves and got
two answers, reported in this week's issue of Nature. Last-to-mate males
not only physically displace most of the other males' sperm, which
researchers had suspected, they also kill or incapacitate any leftover sperm.

"This is the first evidence, that I know of, that clearly indicates that
incapacitation exists" in any animal, says Rice.

By counting the green sperm from genetically engineered males and regular
sperm from another strain of males in a doubly-mated female, Cathy Price,
a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and her colleagues found
that the last male wins because his sperm, and not his seminal fluid,
displaces the first male's sperm.

"It was surprising that sperm had to be present for displacement to
happen," Price says, but how the last male's sperm pushes the first male's
sperm out is still a mystery.

Toxic Fluid Sperm may push other sperm around, but only the seminal fluid
kills directly with toxins. Females that mated for the second time with
infertile males - males that only produced seminal fluid - produced very few
offspring, despite an abundance of sperm present from the first male. But
seminal fluid only killed when added several days after the first mating.

"My idea about this is that the sperm undergo some biochemical change
during storage that the second male takes advantage of," says Jerry Coyne,
an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, another author of
the paper.

"If you make me speculate," adds Price, "the female may alter the sperm as
they're stored. It would be really neat if we found the female had a role in
this, but biochemically we have no idea [what happens]." Older sperm may
simply be more vulnerable to toxins in the seminal fluid.

And while we're speculating, what about people?

Though some studies show about 10 percent of kids are fathered by
outside men, which indicates sperm competition is possible, Coyne says we
know nothing. "It's a lot harder to do this work in any mammal. In humans,
the experiments can't be done."



In flies that mate several times before producing offspring, biologists
uncover why the last male always wins.

"What they've done that no one's been able to do before is track the

Bill Rice, University of California, Santa Barbara

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"It is no more heretical to say the Universe displays purpose, as Hoyle has
done, than to say that it is pointless, as Steven Weinberg has done. Both
statements are metaphysical and outside science. Yet it seems that
scientists are permitted by their own colleagues to say metaphysical things
about lack of purpose and not the reverse. This suggests to me that
science, in allowing this metaphysical notion, sees itself as religion and
presumably as an atheistic religion (if you can have such a thing)." (Shallis
M., "In the eye of a storm", New Scientist, January 19, 1984, pp42-43).