Men with more brothers may be more fertile

Sibling link

The greater the number of male siblings a man has, the more fertile he is likely to be, a new study has claimed.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered that men with mostly brothers are likely to be more productive. The study supports the theory that parents with genes for good male fertility are more likely to have boys.

Researchers assessed 500 men and compared the travelling speed of their sperm with their family make-up, the Daily Mail reported.

“We found the greater number of brothers rather than sisters a man has, the faster his sperm is, increasing the likelihood of fertility. Lots of brothers is also an indication that the man’s parents have strong male fertility genes, and they would then be passed on to the son,” Dr Allan Pacey, one of the researchers said.

“The results are very surprising and could provide genetic insights into why some men are more fertile than others. The research did not give any clues as to how to treat male infertility,” Pacey said.

“It does, however, give food for thought about the importance of genetics for sperm motility and may open the way to more studies in this area,” he added. Sperm activity or ‘motility’ is known to be a major factor influencing male fertility.

“If our results can be replicated we think it provides some evidence that humans have experienced what evolutionary biologists like to call ‘sexual conflict’. The idea behind this is that genes that make males reproductively successful make females reproductively unsuccessful, and vice versa,” said Jon Slate, professor of evolutionary genetics at the University.

Researchers said it did not mean men with a large number of sisters should worry, and they did not look at whether women with lots of sisters are likely to be more fertile, as it is much more difficult to measure.

However, Dr Jim Mossman, postdoctoral researcher at Brown University in the US, who led the study, said the findings may indicate that women with lots of female siblings are likely to be more fertile. “This is certainly not a smoking gun as a reason for infertility in men. However, it would be interesting to test whether the same relationships are observed in other human populations as well as in other species,”he said.

Comments (+)