Influence of mating order on courtship displays and stored sperm utilization in Hermann's tortoises (Testudo hermanni hermanni)
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- Cutuli, G., Cannicci, S., Vannini, M. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2013) 67: 273. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1447-8
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Sperm storage is widespread in many vertebrate groups, and it is frequently associated with promiscuous mating systems. Chelonian species are one of the most outstanding examples of a promiscuous group capable of long-term sperm storage; specialized structures have evolved within the oviducts of these vertebrates to ensure sperm vitality across reproductive cycles. Thus far, few studies have investigated the factors regulating multiple paternity, sperm usage by females and paternity distribution in successive clutches. This study aimed to investigate the effect of mating order on male mounting and reproductive success in Testudo hermanni hermanni, combining behavioural and genetic data. A series of planned matings were performed, within which experimental females were mated sequentially to two different males under controlled conditions. Observations conducted during experimental matings revealed that courtship displays did not significantly differ between the first and second males to mate with a female. Interactions ending with a mount were characterized by a significantly higher intensity and occurrence of determinate courtship behaviours, for example biting and running after the female. Paternity analysis performed on hatchlings produced from experimental females revealed that 46 % of the clutches were multi-sired. A significant contribution of previous years' partners was still found, thus confirming the long-term sperm storage within the female oviduct in this species. Finally, mating order did not significantly affect the reproductive success of experimental males during the on-going reproductive season.