Researchers used a computer model to show that female animals seeking mates with their father’s physical traits tend to have more offspring than animals with no dad preference.
Since a father has, by definition, succeeded in the mating game, looking for males with similar features is a good strategy for finding good partners, according to study co-author Tucker Gilman, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Manchester in England.
“The idea is that if a female has a strategy that’s genetically encoded that causes her to look for mates that are similar to her father, then she gets the advantage of being better able to choose genes that are fit and sexy,” Gilman told ‘LiveScience’.
It is yet to be determined whether the model is applicable to human mating, though some research has suggested humans choose mates in a similar way to other animals.
In the study, published in the journal Evolution, Gilman’s team developed a model in which several organisms chose mates.
Some females had genes that led them to prefer mates that
shared their father’s traits, whereas others had weak preferences or no preferences for their dads’ looks.
Then, the team let the simulated organisms “reproduce” for millions of generations.
The females with strong paternal preferences tended to outcompete females who didn’t imprint on their fathers. Over time, a strong preference for daddy look-alikes emerged in the population.
When dads were not around, the model predicted that females would imprint on their mothers or on other males.
The more physically similar two animals are, the more likely they have the same underlying genes. Looking for physical similarities to fathers could therefore provide animals with a shortcut for choosing quality mates, researchers said.