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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multiple mating and clutch size in invertebrate brooders versus pregnant vertebrates.

  • Author(s): Avise, John C
  • Tatarenkov, Andrey
  • Liu, Jin-Xian
  • et al.

We summarize the genetic literature on polygamy rates and sire numbers per clutch in invertebrate animals that brood their offspring and then compare findings with analogous data previously compiled for vertebrate species displaying viviparity or other pregnancy-like syndromes. As deduced from molecular parentage analyses of several thousand broods from more than 100 "pregnant" species, invertebrate brooders had significantly higher mean incidences of multiple mating than pregnant vertebrates, a finding generally consistent with the postulate that clutch size constrains successful mate numbers in species with extended parental care. However, we uncovered no significant correlation in invertebrates between brood size and genetically deduced rates of multiple mating by the incubating sex. Instead, in embryo-gestating animals otherwise as different as mammals and mollusks, polygamy rates and histograms of successful mates per brooder proved to be strikingly similar. Most previous studies have sought to understand why gestating parents have so many mates and such high incidences of successful multiple mating; an alternative perspective based on logistical constraints turns the issue on its head by asking why mate numbers and polygamy rates are much lower than they theoretically could be, given the parentage-resolving power of molecular markers and the huge sizes of many invertebrate broods.

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