Honeycutt explained that after several generations of inbreeding, the offspring say two sisters may be more closely related to each other than to the parents. They preserve themselves by helping mother produce more offspring with their genetic makeup.
Knowing why animals exist with or without social structures could be more far reaching than the intricate underground tunnels of the naked mole-rat. What scientists learn about its genetic connection to social behavior could ultimately impact how endangered species, for example, are managed for survival, Ingram said. The fewer the animals of one species, the smaller its gene pool.
Ingram will continue her work with conservation genetics in her new position at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications