Extreme Female Promiscuity in a Non-Social Invertebrate Species
While males usually benefit from as many matings as possible, females often evolve various methods of resistance to matings. The prevalent explanation for this is that the cost of additional matings exceeds the benefits of receiving sperm from a large number of males. Here we demonstrate, however, a strongly deviating pattern of polyandry.
We analysed paternity in the marine snail Littorina saxatilis by genotyping large clutches (53–79) of offspring from four females sampled in their natural habitats. We found evidence of extreme promiscuity with 15–23 males having sired the offspring of each female within the same mating period.
Such a high level of promiscuity has previously only been observed in a few species of social insects. We argue that genetic bet-hedging (as has been suggested earlier) is unlikely to explain such extreme polyandry. Instead we propose that these high levels are examples of convenience polyandry: females accept high numbers of matings if costs of refusing males are higher than costs of accepting superfluous matings.
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