What do burying beetles have in common with humans? Older males are better fathers to their offspring, according to a new study.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter found that older male burying beetles, who were less likely to reproduce again, spent more time with their offspring than younger beetles.
The study went on to determine how much paternity had to do with the amont of time spent with beetle offspring; younger beetles who mated with a female burying beetle in an area that smelled of other males were less sure of the offspring's lineage, and as such, were more ambivalent to their young. Older males continued to look after their young -- doing things like feeding their begging "kids" -- even when they weren't sure they were the father.
"If their chances of reproducing again were high, we found that males had to make a trade-off between the likelihood of paternity and the level of paternal care they would give," Dr. Megan Head of the University of Exeter said in a press release. "We found that younger males who were uncertain of their paternity were likely to make the worst fathers."
"Our research ... may also be applicable to humans, since research across a wide range of species shows that males can and do adjust how much care they provide young in response to the likelihood of those young being their own," Head told the Huffington Post. "However, caution is always needed when extrapolating results across species.
"While humans and burying beetles do have a lot in common when it comes to parental care there are also many differences," she continued. "Humans have much stronger social bonds where young often stick around to help raise siblings, whereas in burying beetles, young disperse as soon as they can fend for themselves. These are just some of the things that are likely to contribute to the costs and benefits of males caring for young and thus whether and how paternal care evolves."
That being said, we couldn't help but notice the same phenomenon in the insect world has been observed among humans as well -- particularly that older males made better dads.
A Time article earlier this year noted that older dads are less likely to get angry and fly off the handle, thanks to a 1 percent decrease in testosterone rates. Older dads are more likely to be financially stable than younger dads, and able to spend more time with their children as a result. Older dads who have children later could lenghten their children's lives: Aging men's sperm "develops DNA code that favors a longer life -- a trait he then passes to his children," the BBC reported last year.
However there are health concerns associated with older (human) fathers. Older fathers pass on more genetic mutations to their offspring than younger dads, which reportedly leads to more instances of schizophrenia and autism, numerous outlets reported last year. And older dads are more likely to have autistic grandchildren.
But just as Huffington Post blogger Len Filppu put it in his post "What Time's Article On Older Dad's Did Not Report":
"Later in life fatherhood is not for everyone, and it's becoming apparent there may be increased risks. But for the men and woman who choose or face this potentiality, there is rich treasure to be mined."
Interestingly enough, in beetles, the offspring's performance was about the same no matter what the age of the beetle father. That's because "when the father stopped pulling his weight, the mother took up the slack and provided the additional care necessary to produce successful offspring," according to the press release for the Exeter study.
Earlier on Huff/Post50:
Spice It Up
Rather than opting for the expected dinner out, try staying in and cooking your own meal together. First time meeting your date? Check out local cooking classes in your area rather than opening up your home to a stranger.
Root For The Home Team
A shared interest is always a good place to start. Sporting events, such as a baseball game, deliver a more relaxed environment that allows you to talk without the risk of disturbing others or mis-gauging your "inside voice". The 3-hour-or-so time frame of most baseball games give you the option to leave early--or stay longer--depending on how the date goes.
Pack A Picnic Basket
An increasingly popular option, this date has all the makings of grabbing a bite to eat while simultaneously enjoying the outdoors. Branch out from the park and consider other scenic locations such as the beach or nearby a lake. Divvy up menu items or make a quick stop to the grocery store to shop together before picnicking.
Map The Stars
This is a lovely night-date alternative to a movie, which often leads to a lack of conversation and uncomfortable shuffling in the seats. Instead, head to your local observatory, or drive 15-20 minutes out of town to avoid light pollution. Pack hot beverages and a blanket, and you're good to go.
Sip On Shiraz
Wine tastings and wineries allow for a setting that is informal yet informative (and stocked with liquid courage). Such dates could also easily be turned into a group activity for those who would feel more comfortable with an outing involving more than just a plus one.
Checking out a genre of music you both enjoy has endless posibilites, from sold-out stadiums to smaller venues, to outdoor concerts and local shows in the park. Plus if the date isn't a hit, at least you got see that band while they were in town.
Look up new exhibits or gallery openings in your area. Discussing various pieces will stomp out awkward silences, while hearing your date's perspectives and opinions will offer starting points for deeper conversation.