The Science of Nature

, 103:51 | Cite as

Multiple paternity in a viviparous toad with internal fertilisation

  • Laura Sandberger-LouaEmail author
  • Heike Feldhaar
  • Robert Jehle
  • Mark-Oliver Rödel
Original Paper


Anurans are renowned for a high diversity of reproductive modes, but less than 1 % of species exhibit internal fertilisation followed by viviparity. In the live-bearing West African Nimba toad (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis), females produce yolk-poor eggs and internally nourish their young after fertilisation. Birth of fully developed juveniles takes place after 9 months. In the present study, we used genetic markers (eight microsatellite loci) to assign the paternity of litters of 12 females comprising on average 9.7 juveniles. In 9 out of 12 families (75 %), a single sire was sufficient; in three families (25 %), more than one sire was necessary to explain the observed genotypes in each family. These findings are backed up with field observations of male resource defence (underground cavities in which mating takes place) as well as coercive mating attempts, suggesting that the observed moderate level of multiple paternity in a species without distinct sperm storage organs is governed by a balance of female mate choice and male reproductive strategies.


Multiple paternity Internal fertilisation Operational sex ratio Male harassment Amphibia Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis 



We thank the Société de Mines de Fer, Guinée (SMFG) for financial and logistic support. For support in the field, we thank M. Hirschfeld, J. Doumbia, K. Camara, F. Gbêmou, B. Pivi and B. Doré. For helpful discussions, we thank Linus Günther and Simon Ripperger. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism, improving a previous draft of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was funded by the Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG), but the company had no influence on study design, data collection, data analyses and interpretation, writing of the manuscript and in the decision to submit the paper for publication; thus, the authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All work complies with the guidelines for the use of live amphibians and reptiles in research compiled by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), The Herpetologists’ League (HL) and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR), as well as to the IUCN policy statement on research involving species at risk of extinction. The Ministère de l’Enseignement Superieur et de la Recherche Scientifique (MESRS) and the Direction Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique (DNRST) granted research permits (No. 085/DNPN/2007, No. 103/DNRSIT/DN, No. 095/MENSRS/DNRST No. 091/MESRS/DNRST/2009; No. 121/MESRS/DNRST/2010; No. 177/MESRS/DNRST/2011, No. 027/MESRS/DNRST/2012, No. 061/DNRSIT/DN and No. 020/MESRS/DNRSIT/2014). The authorities from the Ministère de l’Environement et du Development durable, Conakry and the Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Bonn granted CITES export (No. 00314, N°00492) and import permits (E-3117; E-4074), respectively.

Supplementary material

114_2016_1377_MOESM1_ESM.avi (2 mb)
Online Resource 1 Video1.avi, defending cavity entrance: shows a behavioural observation of a male defending a cavity entrance against another male. (AVI 2089 kb)
114_2016_1377_MOESM2_ESM.avi (3.6 mb)
Online Resource 2 Video2.avi, antagonistic behaviours: shows behavioural observations of male antagonistic behaviours as aggressive calling and fighting. (AVI 3664 kb)
114_2016_1377_MOESM3_ESM.avi (2.2 mb)
Online Resource 3 Video3.avi: male harassment: shows a male harassing a female, as well as a male trying to dislodge an amplected male. (AVI 2243 kb)
114_2016_1377_MOESM4_ESM.avi (2.9 mb)
Online Resource 4 Video4.avi: female dislodges male: gives an example of a female dislodging an amplected male from her back. (AVI 2985 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Sandberger-Loua
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heike Feldhaar
    • 2
  • Robert Jehle
    • 3
  • Mark-Oliver Rödel
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity ScienceBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Animal Ecology I, Bayreuth Centre for Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER)University of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  3. 3.School of Environment and Life SciencesUniversity of SalfordSalfordUK
  4. 4.Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)BerlinGermany

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