, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 399-408
Date: 06 Dec 2012

High degree of paternity loss in a species with alternative reproductive tactics

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Abstract

In many mating systems, males adopt alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) to maximize reproductive success. In fishes, guarding males often invest more energy into courtship, defense, and paternal care, whereas cuckolding males forego such costs and steal fertilizations by releasing their sperm in the nest of a guarding male. These two tactics have been documented in the plainfin midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus), yet the relative reproductive success of the guarding and cuckolding male tactics remains unknown. In this study, we used microsatellite markers to determine the level of paternity of the guarding type I males. We explored how paternity varied with male phenotype and across the breeding season. Our results revealed the lowest documented levels of paternity in a species with obligate paternal care. Although paternity remained consistently low, it did increase as the breeding season progressed. Male body size did not significantly predict paternity. The low paternity in this species may be explained, in part, by aspects of their reproductive ecology including the duration of parental care period, limited nest availability and competition for nests, as well as the occurrence of nest takeovers. Overall, our findings contribute to the understanding of the ultimate factors underlying ARTs in this species and highlight the importance of investigating reproductive success across the entire breeding season.

Communicated by A. Pilastro