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Mate quality influences multiple maternity in the sex-role-reversed pipefish Syngnathus typhle

  • Author(s): Jones, Adam G
  • Rosenqvist, Gunilla
  • Berglund, Anders
  • Avise, John C
  • et al.
Abstract

In the pipefish Syngnathus typhle, pregnant males provide all parental care. Females are able to produce more eggs than males can brood, and consequently females compete more intensely for mates than do males, a phenomenon defined as sex-role reversal. As the genetic mating system influences the operation of sexual selection, we investigate variation in one phenotypic component of mate quality, female body size, as a possible proximate influence on mating system variation in S. typhle. Breeding trials were employed, each consisting of a single receptive male with four adult females. In each replicate, a focal male was paired either with a set of small or with a set of large females. Males were allowed to mate freely, and after several weeks of brood development, maternity of the progeny was resolved using three microsatellite loci. Males with access either to small or to large females successfully mated with a mean of 2.1 or 1.3 females, respectively, a significant difference. Results indicate that variation in female size can affect the mating system and thereby influence sexual selection in pipefish. Thus, the high rate of multiple mating by S. typhle males in the wild may be explained in part by the extensive size variation in naturally occurring, sexually mature females.

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