As inbreeding is costly, it has been suggested that polyandry may evolve as a means to reduce the negative fitness consequences of mating with genetically related males. While several studies provide support for this hypothesis, evidence of pure post-copulatory mechanisms capable of biasing paternity towards genetically unrelated males is still lacking; yet these are necessary to support inbreeding avoidance models of polyandry evolution. Here we showed, by artificially inseminating a group of female guppies with an equal number of sperm from related (full-sib) and unrelated males, that sperm competition success of the former was 10 per cent lower, on average, than that of the unrelated male. The paternity bias towards unrelated males was not due to differential embryo survival, as the size of the brood produced by control females, which were artificially inseminated with the sperm of a single male, was not influenced by their relatedness with the male. Finally, we collected ovarian fluid (OF) from virgin females. Using computer-assisted sperm analysis, we found that sperm velocity, a predictor of sperm competition success in the guppy, was significantly lower when measured in a solution containing the OF from a sister as compared with that from an unrelated female. Our results suggest that sperm–OF interaction mediates sperm competition bias towards unrelated mates and highlight the role of post-copulatory mechanisms in reducing the cost of mating with relatives in polyandrous females.
- Received October 31, 2010.
- Accepted December 10, 2010.
- This Journal is © 2011 The Royal Society