Scientists Say Sex and Time Travel Might Not Mix

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It’s a wonderful concept—the fact that one day you might be able to travel back in time and buy a drink for a now-aging celebrity crush of yours—but you may want to avoid rolling around in the sheets with them if one drink happens to lead to another. According to new research being conducted at the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France, sex and time travel might not work out so well.

At least, not for the ladies.

The experiments are being carried out with brine shrimp, which, according to Popular Science, make “an ideal subject for a time-traveling experiment” due to the fact that their eggs can survive decades of drought through a form of dormancy called cryptobiosis. Once water is introduced to a preserved egg, it hatches, producing a creature that was conceived perhaps 10 or 15 years prior. 

As if that’s not cool enough in itself, the team in France has begun to mate these “time travelers” from different generations with others from a variety of time periods, about 160 generations in total. What they found is that sex between shrimp from different generations resulted in a lower life expectancy for the female.

“They found that females that mated with males from the past or future died off sooner than those that mated with their own generation,” writes Popular Science. “The longer the time-shift, the earlier they died: The 22-year time difference shortened female lifetimes by 12 percent; the effect was 3 percent for the 11-year time-shift. Interestingly, this didn’t affect the females’ reproductive success. Those that lived shorter lives produced the same average number of offspring, they just did it at a faster pace. ”

The dilemma at work is apparently a classic battle of the sexes in the form of reproductive adaptation. “If males and females coevolve their sex organs in tandem, mating with a partner from a different time could leave you unprepared—sort of like heading into modern war with 17th-century armor,” Popular Science said. Further research over a longer time-shift is needed to determine in what form this adaptation is occurring and, in turn, what makes the seed of the time-traveling shrimp so lethal.

Time travel obviously isn’t a reality yet, and humans certainly aren’t brine shrimp, so we humbly admit that the applicability and reliability of these experiments remains to be seen. That said, you’ve been warned! Those with a thing for period costumes might want to count their blessings and be content with attending the yearly Renaissance Fair.

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July 19, 2013 - 1:00pm
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