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Microsatellite assessment of multiple paternity in natural populations of a live‐bearing fish, Gambusia holbrooki


Three polymorphic microsatellite loci were isolated and employed to examine paternity patterns in two natural populations of live-bearing mosquito fish, Gambusia holbrooki. Each locus displayed four to five alleles per population in samples of presumably unrelated adults. Nearly 900 embryos from a total of 50 pregnant females were assayed individually, and paternal alleles in each embryo were identified. Counts of paternal alleles, Mendelian segregation patterns, multilocus allelic associations and genetic relatedness coefficients were employed to estimate the minimum and effective numbers of fathers per brood. At least 90% of the assayed broods were shown to have been fathered by multiple males, a figure substantially higher than previous estimates based on less polymorphic genetic loci. However, the genetic data yield a face-value estimate of only about 2.2 fathers per brood, a number that seems perhaps surprisingly low based on frequencies of attempted copulations by males. Both biological and sampling factors that might bias mean sire counts downward are considered. Although higher sire counts per brood might be obtained from loci with even greater numbers of alleles, little statistical room remains for higher frequency estimates of multiple paternity in Gambusia.

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