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Extreme female promiscuity in a non-social invertebrate species

Journal article
Authors Marina Panova
Johan Boström
Tobias Hofving
Therese Areskoug
Anders Eriksson
Bernhard Mehlig
Tuuli Mäkinen
Carl André
Kerstin Johannesson
Published in PLoS ONE
Volume 5
Issue 3
Pages e9640 (6 pages)
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2010
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Physics (GU)
Department of Marine Ecology
Pages e9640 (6 pages)
Language en
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Ecology


Background: While males usually benefit from as many matings as possible, females often evolve various methods of resistance to matings. The prevalent explanation for this is that the cost of additional matings exceeds the benefits of receiving sperm from a large number of males. Here we demonstrate, however, a strongly deviating pattern of polyandry. Methodology/Principal Findings: We analysed paternity in the marine snail Littorina saxatilis by genotyping large clutches (53-79) of offspring from four females sampled in their natural habitats. We found evidence of extreme promiscuity with 15-23 males having sired the offspring of each female within the same mating period. Conclusions/Significance: Such a high level of promiscuity has previously only been observed in a few species of social insects. We argue that genetic bet-hedging (as has been suggested earlier) is unlikely to explain such extreme polyandry. Instead we propose that these high levels are examples of convenience polyandry: females accept high numbers of matings if costs of refusing males are higher than costs of accepting superfluous matings.

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