'This is a textbook example of … genes versus environment. Sexual behaviour is really hardwired into females'

Women who reside in colder climates are more likely to be promiscuous, new research has claimed. A study conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter reveals that while it is hardwired in some females, no matter the weather, to mate with as many males as possible whereas others are more suited to a one-partner lifestyle, the climate plays its part in monogamy or promiscuity.

This is the conclusion, at least, that experts have reached when analysing fruit flies. The team from the university took some of the insects from the warm-weathered Arizona and some from the chilly Montana and analysed their behaviour in a laboratory.

They found females were more willing to accept more partners when they were placed in colder temperatures, while they were willing to settle for one in warmer climates. This did not apply to all of them, though, with many of the flies always opting for multiple mates regardless of the conditions, according to the study published in Behavioral Ecology.

The team conclude that while temperature can affect sexual behaviour in female fruit flies, the genetic background also plays a large part in how many mates a female will have in her life.

Lead author Dr Michelle Taylor said: "This is a textbook example of the role of genes versus environment. Sexual behaviour is really hardwired into females. It makes sense biologically for females to have a number of partners as they will produce more offspring that are more genetically diverse and survive better. What is interesting, and what needs further research, is the question of why some females stay with one partner. We don't know what maintains monogamy.

"These results are an important step towards understanding how genes and environment contribute towards behaviour and ultimately how behaviour affects the success or failure of natural populations. Mating with many different males can change the genetic make-up of a population because it increases the number of combinations of genes represented in each generation. Evolutionarily speaking, this could be one reason why some populations are able to adapt to changing environments while others go extinct."