Jun 28, 2017 | Updated: 09:10 PM EDT

Lady's Choice: Unique All Female Salamander Species Balances Genes From Males of Three Other Species

Jun 13, 2017 12:39 PM EDT

Ambystoma Salamander
(Photo : Getty Images)

Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers could take note of a new Iowa University study that shows the unique species of salamander will mate with males of three different species and carry the genes for each one equally in order to provide the best chance for the offspring to survive. No "star player" gene is favored, lest it fall out of favor and therefore endanger the survival of the species. Instead, all genes are treated equally to give the species the best chance to survive.

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Think of it as a "superteam" of genes.

A team at the University of Iowa studied the Ambystoma salamander, a 6 million year old salamander lineage that provides only female offspring. The species takes genes from three different male species of salamander, keeping only some of the genes and discarding others, a process known as kleptogenesis.

This is nothing new in the animal kingdom. What is unique is that the all female salamander chooses to use roughly the same amount of genes from each species of salamander that it mates with. 

"It's mostly balanced. The three genomes are mostly being expressed equally in this hybrid," says Kyle McElroy, the paper's corresponding author. "What we'd like to find out is how the choosing and using occurs, and how these genes from different sexual salamander species come together to make a successful hybrid." 

McElroy continues on the star player versus balanced team metaphor when he say's;

"If you have a team that's unbalanced and loses a top player, you won't win," says McElroy, a fourth-year graduate student from St. Louis. "But if every player is equal, then you don't lose as much." 

The researchers go as far as to call the salamander "promiscuous" because it mates with three males of another species in order to get the genes that it wants. Just for the record, I'm against slut shaming salamanders, and you should be too. Without the behavior of this particular breed of Ambystoma salamander, it would have never survived 6 million years. The use of  several different genomes has increased it's chance of survival as a species. 

This is akin to the Golden State Warriors, who have five players who are almost equally accomplished at their respective positions. When one player is having an off night, the other players step up and the team survives and succeeds. This has proven to be successful in the animal kingdom. After the Warriors' recent win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to capture their second NBA championship, this approach seems to be playing out in the sports world as well. The Cavaliers, who have only two star players, are more dependent on their stars to carry the load and help the team win. It shows that this approach has been applied well in sports to generate success without having to depend on one or two all star players. Instead, the more balanced team wins out.

Go salamanders!

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