Frequency of Multiple Paternity in Gummy Shark and Rig

paper8Published online on 15. March 2013

Frequency of Multiple Paternity in Gummy Shark, Mustelus antarcticus, and Rig, Mustelus lenticulatus, and the Implications of Mate Encounter Rate, Postcopulatory Influences, and Reproductive Mode

Jessica J. Boomer, Robert G. Harcourt, Malcolm P. Francis, Terence I. Walker, Juan Matias Braccini and Adam J. Stow


Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) show an amazing diversity of reproductive modes and behaviors. Multiple paternity (MP) has been identified in all species where more than 1 litter has been investigated; yet neither direct nor indirect benefits from MP have been determined in elasmobranchs. This has led to the suggestion that MP in this group may simply be a product of convenience polyandry with variation in the frequency of MP driven by differences in mate encounter rates. Here, we use molecular markers to investigate polyandry and MP in 2 closely related and commercially important species of shark, Mustelus antarcticus and Mustelus lenticulatus. In total, 328 M. antarcticus embryos originating from 29 different mothers and 75 M. lenticulatus embryos originating from 19 different mothers were genotyped using 8 microsatellite loci. We find that MP occurs in both species. However, in both species, the majority of litters were sired by a single father. Our results do not support increased fecundity per se as a driver of MP. Further, our results do not suggest that high population densities with resulting high mate encounter rates generated by breeding aggregations necessarily lead to high frequencies of MP. Importantly, we note evidence of reproductive skew within polyandrous litters, which is a predicted outcome of postcopulatory mechanisms.

Journal of Heredity, Advance Access, doi: 10.1093/jhered/est010



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