Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 6, pp 1173-1182

First online:

Small effective number of parents (N b ) inferred for a naturally spawned cohort of juvenile European flat oysters Ostrea edulis

  • D. HedgecockAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California Email author 
  • , S. LauneyAffiliated withLaboratoire Génétique et Pathologie, IFREMERCNRS-IFREMER, UMR 5171, Université Montpellier IILaboratoire de Génétique des Poissons, INRA
  • , A. I. PudovkinAffiliated withInstitute of Marine Biology
  • , Y. NaciriAffiliated withLaboratoire Génétique et Pathologie, IFREMERLaboratoire de Génétique et Phylogénie Moléculaires, Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève
  • , S. LapègueAffiliated withLaboratoire Génétique et Pathologie, IFREMER
  • , F. BonhommeAffiliated withCNRS-IFREMER, UMR 5171, Université Montpellier II

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The great fecundity and very high larval mortality of most marine invertebrates and fish make possible substantial variance in the number of offspring contributed by adults to subsequent generations. The reproductive success of such organisms may thus resemble a sweepstakes lottery, in which a minority of progenitors succeeds in replacing an entire population, while the majority fails to procreate. One specific prediction of this hypothesis, that genetic diversity of newly settled cohorts should be less than that of the adult population, is tested in the present study. Microsatellite DNA markers were examined in naturally spawned juvenile European flat oysters Ostrea edulis (L.), collected over a 12-day period in 1993 from the western Mediterranean Sea, near Sète, France (43°32′N, 3°56′E) and grown out for a period of up to 10 months. Variation in these juveniles was compared to that in a pooled sample of adults collected in 1994 from two locations (Thau Lagoon and Port St. Louis) that had statistically homogeneous allelic frequencies. Though nearly twice as large as the pooled adult sample, the juvenile sample had only 60% of the adult allelic diversity. Analyses of linkage disequilibrium and kinship, as well as estimation of the effective number of parents, suggested that 10–20 adults produced this juvenile cohort. This observation supports the hypothesis of sweepstakes reproductive success and suggests that partial inbreeding may occur even in species with large populations and dispersing planktonic larvae.