Marine Biology

, Volume 123, Issue 4, pp 723–733 | Cite as

Mating systems in the sea anemone genus Epiactis

  • S. Edmands


Four morphologically similar species in the sea anemone genus Epiactis exhibit overlapping distributions on the Pacific coast of North America; E. prolifera, E. lisbethae, E. ritteri and E. fernaldi. All brood their offspring up to the juvenile stage, but each has a different combination of internal versus external brooding and hermaphroditism versus gonochory (separate sexes). Specimens were collected from sites ranging from British Columbia to southern California between December 1988 and July 1992. Mating systems were inferred from genetic comparisons of mothers and offspring histological analyses of sex expression and observations on brooding and spawning behavior. Allozyme and multilocus DNA fingerprint analyses of the gynodioecious hermaphrodite E. prolifera showed that offspring were all identical to their mothers, a result consistent with either asexual reproduction, self-fertilization or extreme biparental inbreeding. In the gonochore E. lisbethae, mothers and offspring were also electrophoretically identical, but variation in DNA fingerprints indicated cross-fertilization. Similar DNA fingerprint differences between mother and offspring in the gonochore E. ritteri implied that cross-fertilization also occurs in this species. No mother-offspring comparisons were performed on E. fernaldi, as this species was not observed brooding offspring during this study. Although incomplete, the results of this study increase our knowledge of the very unusual combination of reproductive modes in the genus Epiactis, and argue for further investigations of the evolution and genetic consequences of mating systems in these species.


Mating System Asexual Reproduction Reproductive Mode Fingerprint Analysis Unusual Combination 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Edmands
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology BoardUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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