High frequency of mating without egg release in highly promiscuous nonparasitic lamprey Lethenteron kessleri


Nonparasitic lampreys are highly promiscuous: a single female can mate over several dozen times with multiple males. It remains unknown why females mate so frequently despite presumed costs from an elongated spawning period. This paper documents that female Siberian brook lampreys mate without egg release (termed “sham mating”) at remarkably high frequencies. Females mated 20–196 times during a breeding experiment, of which sham mating comprised 35–90%. The number of eggs released may be physically constrained in each mating by the lamprey’s elongated body and behavior. Female lampreys might also control egg release depending on surrounding males.

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We greatly appreciate invaluable comments from Dr. J. B. Hume and an anonymous reviewer on the earlier version of the manuscript. This study was partly supported by the research fund provided by the Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant from The Japan Science Society (No. 25–515) to C. Y.

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Correspondence to Itsuro Koizumi.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Formal approval for the field experiment was granted by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the National University Corporation Hokkaido University (approval no. 26-2).

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Yamazaki, C., Koizumi, I. High frequency of mating without egg release in highly promiscuous nonparasitic lamprey Lethenteron kessleri . J Ethol 35, 237–243 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10164-017-0505-0

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  • Citizen data
  • Female choice
  • Group spawning
  • Polygynandry
  • Mate choice
  • Spawning aggregation