Beyond lifetime reproductive success: the posthumous reproductive dynamics of male Trinidadian guppies

Andrés López-Sepulcre, Swanne P. Gordon, Ian G. Paterson, Paul Bentzen, David N. Reznick

Abstract

In semelparous populations, dormant germ banks (e.g. seeds) have been proposed as important in maintaining genotypes that are adaptive at different times in fluctuating environments. Such hidden storage of genetic diversity need not be exclusive to dormant banks. Genotype diversity may be preserved in many iteroparous animals through sperm-storage mechanisms in females. This allows males to reproduce posthumously and increase the effective sizes of seemingly female-biased populations. Although long-term sperm storage has been demonstrated in many organisms, the understanding of its importance in the wild is very poor. We here show the prevalence of male posthumous reproduction in wild Trinidadian guppies, through the combination of mark–recapture and pedigree analyses of a multigenerational individual-based dataset. A significant proportion of the reproductive population consisted of dead males, who could conceive up to 10 months after death (the maximum allowed by the length of the dataset), which is more than twice the estimated generation time. Demographic analysis shows that the fecundity of dead males can play an important role in population growth and selection.

  • Received May 2, 2013.
  • Accepted May 14, 2013.
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