Patterns of male reproductive success in Crepidula fornicata provide new insight for sex allocation and optimal sex change

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The size-advantage model and sex-allocation theory are frequently invoked to explain the evolution and maintenance of sequential hermaphroditism in many taxa. A test of current theory requires quantitative estimates of reproductive success and knowledge of the relationship between reproduction and size for each gender. Reproductive success can be difficult to measure. In species where polyandry occurs, it can be quantified only by determining paternity of offspring. We employed microsatellite loci to establish paternity for 12 families of Crepidula fornicata, where a family is defined as a single female, her brood, and the males stacked on top of her. Genetic data were analyzed and paternity was assigned to a single potential father for more than 83% of the offspring tested. Estimates of reproductive success revealed that one male within the family fathered the majority of offspring and that he was usually the largest male and the one closest to the brooding female. The dominant male's success also tended to decrease as the number of mature males within the family increased. Our results suggest that sperm competition could be a driving force in determining male reproductive success and the timing of sex change in C. fornicata. © 2008 Marine Biological Laboratory.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Biological Bulletin