Female fitness, sperm traits and patterns of paternity in an Australian polyandrous mouse
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Multiple mating is a common reproductive strategy among mammals, and rodents living in communal, mixed sex social groups are predisposed to a polygamous existence. The sandy inland mouse is a naturally polyandrous species that occurs across most of Australia’s arid region. Females typically have greater reproductive restrictions compared with males and are therefore expected to acquire substantial fitness benefits from copulating with more than one male. Here, I show that the reproductive output of female sandy inland mice did not differ between females mated monandrously (single male) or polyandrously (two males). Paternity data obtained from the polyandrous litters revealed that in most cases, there was a first male-to-mate advantage. I discuss this result in relation to the chastity enforcement hypothesis for the evolution of the copulatory plug. Finally, I compared ejaculate traits of competing males and found that the paternity loss of males that mated first was attributable to their own sperm density and sperm quality, and not to that of their rivals. The sperm data also revealed that second males gained greater paternity representation when sperm velocities and motilities were higher in first-mated males. This investigation indicates that mating position is a critical determinant of male fitness in mammalian sperm competition.
KeywordsSperm competition Multiple paternity Mammals Copulatory plug Genetic benefits Ejaculate quality
I thank Shresta Lobind for assistance with animal husbandry. This research was funded by the Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. and the Australian Research Council (Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship).
The author declares that this research complies with the current laws of the country in which it was performed (Australia). The research was approved by the University of Western Australia animal ethics committee (approval number: 07/100/607).
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