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They report in the journal Science that lowering the activity of just two genetic pathways produces the change.
Evolution from a species consisting of males and females into one consisting of only males and hermaphrodites happens naturally in many nematodes.
A team of US researchers says their experiment explains how this might take place.
They say it also provides a simple model helping scientists to work out the mechanism of evolutionary change.
Dr Ellis said it was exciting to discover that, by lowering the activity of just two genetic pathways he and his team were able to "take what should have been a female animal and turn it into a cell fertile hermaphrodite".
The two genes the researchers "tweaked" were one involved in making sperm and another involved in activating them.
Genes of change The scientists use nematode worms as simple models to show how evolution works at a genetic level.
We understand how evolution tweaks simple traits, like a giraffe's neck [getting] longer and longer over time," he said.
While the new legislation may be a step forward in some respects, many argue convincingly that it is not going far enough and that the binary nature of the legal gender system must be reformed and particularly that the ‘medicalisation’ of the issue needs to come to an end. Papers include the legal history of intersex, ‘national reports’ from several jurisdictions on the current law, medical and theological views on intersex as well as international human rights perspectives.Germany in 2013 as the first country in the world introduced a legal gender of ‘indeterminate’ in certain cases, and the purpose of the workshop was to explore 1) the reasons for and the very significant consequences of this remarkable step, not only for Germany but also for legal systems in Europe and beyond, and 2) whether the new regulation adequately deals with the underlying issues.With a surprisingly simple genetic tweak, scientists have transformed nematode worms into hermaphrodites."These were small changes to the activity of genetic pathways that already existed," said Dr Ellis.
"So the pieces were already in place, they just had to be altered so they worked in a slightly new way." He said the finding was surprising because it was such a simple change that produced a trait that was so dramatic.
"But this dramatic change happened fairly recently and in a group of animals that we know a lot about...