Multiple mating and reproductive skew in Trinidadian guppies

Abstract

Male offspring production in promiscuously mating species is typically more skewed than female offspring production. It is therefore advantageous for males to seek as many mating partners as possible. However, given the documented benefits of polyandry we expect females, as well as males, to mate multiply. We tested these ideas using Trinidadian guppies, Poecilia reticulata. Fishes were collected from the wild, housed in groups of 10 males and 10 females and allowed to reproduce freely over a period of three months. We used hypervariable microsatellite loci to identify the parents of 840 offspring and to quantify the variance in mating success. As anticipated, and in line with the Bateman gradient, there was greater skew in the number of progeny produced by males. By contrast, we found no sex difference in mating partner number over the duration of the experiment. A median of two males fathered each brood and there was marked turnover in the identities of the sires of successive broods. Female partner turnover was, however, less than expected under random mating. We suggest that partner switching over time, as well as polyandry within broods, could contribute to the maintenance of genetic diversity in guppy populations.