Men are more likely to pay attention to their female partners around the time of ovulation. This could be an evolutionary strategy to keep women away from other men during fertile periods, say the researchers who carried out the questionnaire study.

There?s a good reason for this: It?s been discovered that between one and 30 per cent of children are not the offspring of their so-called fathers. Steven Gangestad and colleagues at the University of New Mexico found that women fantasized more about other men just before ovulation. “It was clear from the results that the women’s primary partners were more attentive and proprietary near ovulation,” Gangestad says. “The results suggest a conflict of interest between the sexes when women are fertile.?

?In popular circles and evolutionary psychology, it is a scientific fact that females may get better genes from other males than from their own partner. However, the evidence for this is still not overwhelming,” says Magnus Enquist, an expert on mate bonding at the University of Stockholm.

To maximize the potential benefits and minimize the risks, women should be most interested in other men during their fertile period. Gangestad?s team gave questionnaires to 51 women. They filled them in within five days of ovulation, when they were fertile, and also during a non-fertile period. Twenty-four of these women said they had a single relationship, and another seven had primary partners but non-exclusive relationships. The team found that the women’s overall attraction to and fantasy about other men increased in the days just prior to ovulation, although sexual interest in primary partners did not change.

The women with partners also reported they got about 30 per cent more attention from them during their fertile period, such as frequent telephone calls. “And specifically, the women who were most likely to report that their partners were more vigilant also reported the greatest increases in interest in other men,” Gangestad says. However, none of the women in primary relationships reported actually being unfaithful to their partners.

Gangestad doesn?t know what cues men could be responding to. “There may be subtle clues in the partner’s scent or visual signs,” he says. “Or it may be a response to behavior, such as an increased interest in other men.”

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Attention all women with ticking biological clocks: It?s been discovered that a woman’s fertility starts to decline in her late twenties, not in her thirties, as had been previously thought. But the scientists who conducted the new research say that a woman aged 28 does not have less chance of becoming pregnant?it just may take longer.

“Although we noted a decline in female fertility in the late twenties, what we found was a decrease in the probability of becoming pregnant per menstrual cycle, not in the probability of actually achieving a pregnancy,” says David Dunson of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina. He says a woman age 28 should take only a month or two longer to become pregnant than a woman aged 23.

The study was based on 782 healthy couples in the U.S. and Italy. The team found that if intercourse took place at the peak time for conception and the partners were the same age, women aged 19 to 26 had a 50 per cent chance of pregnancy in any one menstrual cycle. This fell to around 40 per cent for women aged 27 to 34. For women aged 35 to 39, it was less than 30 per cent. The research also showed that men’s fertility starts to decline from as early as their mid-thirties.

Dunson says many researchers say there is a gradual but continuous decline of fertility with age. There is also a lot of variability in fertility among women of the same age. He says, “Epidemiological studies have identified some of the factors associated with variability, including prenatal exposures, sexually transmitted disease history, smoking and occupational exposures, but much of this heterogeneity remains unexplained.”

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Even cows can get spring fever–scientists at a Brazilian university found this out when they tried to clone a cow but got an ox instead.

The team at the University of Sao Paulo are investigating two explanations for their cow giving birth to a baby ox. One of the scientists may have made a mistake and inseminated her with ox embryo from their laboratory instead of a cow embryo. Or the cow may have jumped a fence and gotten pregnant by an ox in a neighboring field just before they inseminated her with the cloned cow embryo.

Professor Jose Antonio Visintin says, “She must have cheated on us!”

In the mood for romance? To find out if your baby will be an Indigo, read ?The Indigo Children? and ?An Indigo Celebration? by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober, click here.

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