Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1645–1649 | Cite as

Serial monogamy in the European long-snouted seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus

  • Lucy C. Woodall
  • Heather J. Koldewey
  • Paul W. Shaw
Short Communication


Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are non-sex-role-reversed members of the Syngnathidae family that provide extensive brood care. Previous studies of seahorses have revealed monogamy within a single brood, but their longer term mating system had not been comprehensively evaluated. The parental contribution to 29 wild-born broods of Hippocampus guttulatus, sampled from six Portuguese populations with differing seahorse densities and sex ratios, was assessed using microsatellite DNA markers. To assess the longer term genetic mating system of this species parentage was determined in eleven broods sampled from a captive population over two breeding seasons. Genetic data suggest that this socially polygamous seahorse is serially monogamous across breeding seasons, i.e. monogamous within a season but may switch mates between seasons, and that differing population densities and sex ratios do not affect the mating system.


Seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus Serial monogamy Mating system 



This is a contribution from Project Seahorse. We thank the aquarium staff of Zoological Society of London, and also Niall McKeown for technical advice. We acknowledge Oceanario Lisboa and Aquario Vasco da Gama for help with fish collection; especially G. Nunes and F. Gil. L. Woodall was supported by a NERC CASE studentship (NER/S/C/2005/13461) and by grants from Royal Holloway University of London. The research was also supported by funds from Chocolaterie Guylian, Belgium and the Zoological Society of London.


  1. Carrete M, Donazar JA, Margalida A, Bertran J (2006) Linking ecology, behaviour and conservation: does habitat saturation change the mating system of bearded vultures? Biol Lett 2:624–627PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Curtis JMR (2004) History, ecology and conservation of european seahorses. PhD Thesis, McGill University, Montreal, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  3. Curtis JMR (2007) Validation of a method for estimating realized annual fecundity in a multiple spawner, the long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus), using underwater visual census. Fish Bull 10:327–336Google Scholar
  4. Curtis JMR, Vincent ACJ (2006) Life history of an unusual marine fish: survival, growth and movement patterns of Hippocampus guttulatus, Cuvier 1829. J of Fish Biol 68:707–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DeWoody J, Walker D, Avise JC (2000) Genetic parentage in large half-sib clutches; theoretical estimates and empirical appraisals. Genetics 154:1907–1912PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Egger B, Obermuller B, Phiri H, Sturmbauer C, Sefc KM (2006) Monogamy in the maternally mouthbrooding Lake Tanganyika cichlid fish (Tropheus moorii). Proc Roy Soc Lond B Bio 273:1797–1802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Emlen ST, Oring LW (1977) Ecology, sexual selection and the evolution of mating systems. Science 197:215–223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Foster SJ, Vincent ACJ (2004) Life history and ecology of seahorses: implications for conservation and management. J of Fish Bio 65:1–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Galbusera PA, Gillemot S, Jouk P, Teske PR, Hellemans B, Volckaert FAM (2007) Isolation of microsatellite markers for the endangered Knysna seahorse Hippocampus capensis and their use in the detection of a genetic bottleneck. Mol Ecol Notes 7:638–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Herold D, Clark E (1993) Monogamy, spawning and skin-shedding of the sea moth, Eurypegasus draconis (Pisces: Pegasidae). Environ Biol Fish 37:219–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jones AG (2005) GERUD 2.0: a computer program for the reconstruction of parental genotypes from half-sib progeny arrays with know or unknown parents. Mol Ecol Notes 5:708–711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jones AG, Kvarnemo C, Moore GI, Simmons LW, Avise JC (1998) Microsatellite evidence for monogamy and sex-biased recombination in the Western Australian seahorse Hippocampus angustus. Mol Ecol 7:1497–1505PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jones AG, Moore GI, Kvarnemo C, Walker D, Avise JC (2003) Sympatric speciation as a consequence of male pregnancy in seahorses. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:6598–6603PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kamler J, Ballard W, Lemons P, Mote K (2004) Variation in mating systems and group structure in two populations of swift foxes, Vulpes velox. Anim Behav 68:83–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kvarnemo C, Moore GI, Jones AG, Nelson WS, Avise JC (2000) Monogamous pair bonds and mate switching in the western australian seahorse Hippocampus subelongatus. J Evolut Biol 13:882–888CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Matsumoto K, Yanagisawa Y (2001) Monogamy and sex role reversal in the pipefish Corythoichthys haematopterus. Anim Behav 61:163–170PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mobley KB, Jones AG (2007) Geographical variation in the mating system of the dusky pipefish (Syngnathus floridae). Mol Ecol 16:2596–2606PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mobley KB, Jones AG (2009) Environmental, demographic and genetic mating system variation among five geographically distinct pipefish (Syngnathus floridae) populations. Mol Ecol 18:1476–1490PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Naud M-J, Curtis JMR, Woodall LC, Gaspar MB (2009) Mate choice, operational sex ratio and social promiscuity in a wild populations of the Long Snouted Seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus. Behav Ecol 20:160–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Neff BD, Pitcher TE (2002) Assessing the statistical power of genetic analyses to detect multiple mating in fishes. J Fish Biol 61:739–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pardo BG, Lopez A, Martinez P, Bouza C (2007) Novel microsatellite loci in the threatened European long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) for genetic diversity and parentage analysis. Conserv Genet 8:1243–1245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Raymond M, Rousset F (1995) Genepop (version 1.2) population genetics software for exact tests and ecumenicism. J Hered 86:248–249Google Scholar
  23. Van Look KJW, Dzyuba B, Cliffe A, Koldewey HJ, Holt WV (2007) Dimorphic sperm and the unlikely route to fertilisation in the yellow seahorse. J Exp Biol 210:432–437PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Van Oosterhout C, Hutchinson WF, Wills DPM, Shipley P (2004) MICROCHECKER: software for identifying and correcting genotyping errors in microsatellite data. Mol Ecol Notes 4:535–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vincent ACJ, Sadler LM (1995) Faithful pair bonds in wild seahorses, Hippocampus whitei. Anim Behav 50:1557–1569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wilson AB, Martin-Smith KM (2007) Genetic monogamy despite social promiscuity in the pot-bellied seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis). Mol Ecol 16:2345–2352PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Winnepenninckx B, Backeljau T, Dewachter R (1993) Extraction of high molecular-weight DNA from molluscs. Trends Genet 9:407PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Withler RE, King J, Marliave J, Beaith B, Li S, Supernault K, Miller KM (2004) Polygamous mating and high levels of genetic variation in lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus, of the strait of georgia, British Columbia. Environ Biol Fish 69:345–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Woodall LC (2009) Population genetics and mating systems of European Seahorses. PhD Thesis, Royal Holloway University of London, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  30. Woods CMC (2000) Preliminary observations on breeding and rearing the seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis (Telelostei: Syngnathidae) in captivity. New Zeal J Mar Fresh 34:475–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucy C. Woodall
    • 1
    • 4
  • Heather J. Koldewey
    • 2
  • Paul W. Shaw
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesRoyal Holloway University of LondonEghamUK
  2. 2.Zoological Society of London, Regent’s ParkLondonUK
  3. 3.Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural SciencesAberystwyth UniversityAberystwythUK
  4. 4.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

Personalised recommendations