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Cuckoldry rates in the Molly Miller (Scartella cristata; Blenniidae), a hole-nesting marine fish with alternative reproductive tactics

  • Author(s): Mackiewicz, M;
  • Porter, BA;
  • Dakin, EE;
  • Avise, JC
  • et al.

Microsatellite markers were developed and employed to assess genetic maternity and paternity of embryos in nest-tended clutches of the Molly Miller (Scartella cristata), a marine fish in which alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) by males were recently described from behavioral and morphological evidence. Genetic data gathered for 1,536 surveyed progeny, from 23 barnacle-nest holes in a single Floridian population, indicate that on average about 5.5 females (range 3-9) contributed to the pool of progeny within a nest. With regard to paternity, the microsatellite data demonstrate that most of the surveyed nests (82.6%) contained at least some embryos that had not been sired by the nest-tending (bourgeois) male, and overall that 12.4% of offspring in the population had been sired via "stolen" fertilizations by other males. These are among the highest values of cuckoldry documented to date in nest-tending fishes, and they support and quantify the notion that the nest-parasitic ART is reproductively quite successful in this species despite what would otherwise seem to be highly defensible nesting sites (the restricted interior space of a barnacle shell). Our estimated cuckoldry rates in this population of the Molly Miller are compared to those previously reported for local populations in other nest-tending fish species, with results discussed in the context of ecological and behavioral variables that may influence relative frequencies of nest parasitism. © Springer-Verlag 2005.

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