Do Genetic Diversity Effects Drive the Benefits Associated with Multiple Mating? A Test in a Marine Invertebrate
Mothers that mate with multiple males often produce higher quality offspring than mothers that mate with a single male. By engaging in polyandry, mothers may increase their chances of mating with a compatible male or promote sperm competition – both of which act to increase maternal fitness via the biasing of the paternity of offspring. Surprisingly, mating with multiple males, can carry benefits without biasing paternity and may be due simply to differences in genetic diversity between monandrous and polyandrous clutches but role of genetic diversity effects in driving the benefits of polyandry remains poorly tested. Disentangling indirect, genetic benefits from genetic diversity effects is challenging but crucial if we are to understand the selection pressures acting to promote polyandry.
Here, we examine the post-fertilisation benefits of accessing the sperm of multiple males in an externally fertilising polychaete worm. Accessing the sperm of multiple males increases offspring performance but this benefit was driven entirely by genetic diversity effects and not by the biasing of paternity at fertilisation.
Previous studies on polyandry should be interpreted cautiously as genetic diversity effects alone can explain the benefits of polyandry yet these diversity effects may be difficult to disentangle from other mechanisms. We suggest that future studies use a modified experimental design in order to discriminate between genetic diversity effects and indirect, genetic benefits.
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