A new sexual selection study replicates an iconic 1948 study and finds it flawed. The graphic shows that children of fruit fly parents with different mutations have an equal chance of inheriting just the mother's mutation, just the father's mutation, both mutations or neither mutation. (Credit: Kim DeRose)

A classic study from more than 60 years ago suggesting that males are more promiscuous and females more choosy in selecting mates may, in fact, be wrong, say life scientists who are the first to repeat the historic experiment using the same methods as the original.

In 1948, English geneticist Angus John Bateman published a study showing that male fruit flies gain an evolutionary advantage from having multiple mates, while their female counterparts do not. Bateman's conclusions have informed and influenced an entire sub-field of evolutionary biology for decades.

"Bateman's 1948 study is the most-cited experimental paper in sexual selection today because of its conclusions about how the number of mates influences fitness in males and females," said Patricia Adair Gowaty, a distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA. "Yet despite its important status, the experiment has never been repeated with the methods that Bateman himself originally used, until now.

"Our team repeated Bateman's experiment and found that what some accepted as bedrock may actually be quicksand. It is possible that Bateman's paper should never have been published."

Gowaty's study was published June 11 in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is scheduled for publication in an upcoming print edition.