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Multiple paternity and mate competition in non-selfing, monogamous, egg-trading hermaphrodites

Lorenzi, Maria Cristina, Schleicherová, Dáša, Sella, Gabriella
Acta ethologica 2014 v.17 no.3 pp. 173-179
Polychaeta, animal behavior, animals, cocoons, egg masses, eggs, females, genetic markers, group size, males, mating competitiveness, monogamy, paternity, progeny, sex allocation, spermatozoa
In animals in which the two sexes invest relatively similar amounts of resources in their young, the number of mates is expected to affect male and female reproductive success similarly and gender conflicts on the number of mates may not arise. Correspondingly, in non-selfing, simultaneous hermaphrodites with long-term monogamy, the two partners are expected to alternate repeatedly their sexual roles and invest similarly in their offspring. Therefore, the gender conflict on the number of mating partners should not arise. However, when >2 conspecifics are present, hermaphrodites are known to plastically adjust their behavior and sex allocation and compete for mating repeatedly in the male role. We tested whether this leads to multiple paternities of single egg clutches in experimental replicates of small and large groups of non-selfing, egg-trading, behaviorally monogamous polychaete worms (Ophryotrocha diadema) by using neutral genetic markers to estimate paternity. Multiply fertilized egg cocoons were common in these worms; two or more individuals succeeded in fertilizing the same egg cocoon and mate competition increased with group size. Multiply fertilized egg cocoons had a higher proportion of eggs developing into mature worms than singly fertilized egg cocoons. Possibly singly fertilized cocoons had a lower fertilization rate owing to low sperm counts and aflagellate sperm.