The genetic mating system of a sex-role-reversed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle): a molecular inquiry
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In the pipefish Syngnathus typhle as in other species of Syngnathidae, developing embryos are reared on the male's ventral surface. Although much laboratory research has been directed toward understanding sexual selection in this sex-role-reversed species, few studies have addressed the mating behavior of S. typhle in the wild, and none has capitalized upon the power of molecular genetic assays. Here we present the first direct assessment of the genetic mating system of S. typhle in nature. Novel microsatellite loci were cloned and characterized from this species, and employed to assay entire broods from 30 pregnant, field-captured males. Genetic analysis of 1340 embryos revealed that 1–6 females (mean = 3.1) contributed to each brooded clutch, the highest rate of multiple maternity yet documented in any pipefish. Evidence of multiple mating by females was also detected. Thus, this population of S. typhle displays a polygynandrous mating system, a finding consistent with previous field and laboratory observations. Our results, considered together with similar studies of other syngnathid species, provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that the genetic mating system is related to the evolution of sexual dimorphism in the fish family Syngnathidae.
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