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JOURNAL ARTICLE

The Role of Male Variation in Fertilization Success in Determining the Costs and Benefits of Polyandry in the Broadcast Spawning Urchin Lytechinus variegatus

Melissa Betters, Don R Levitan
Biological Bulletin 2018, 235 (2): 63-70
30358447
Although the benefits to males mating with multiple females have been well documented, the benefits to females mating with multiple males (polyandry) are less studied, particularly the mechanism that might drive these potential benefits. Benefits of polyandry might stem from increasing the chance of mating with a high-quality or compatible male or stem from the ability of multiple males to fertilize more eggs than any single male. We examine the fertilization consequences of polyandry in the sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus. This species has variation in spine color, and we conducted matings between individual and pooled sperm from two males that matched or mismatched in color. The results indicate that (1) males with white spines achieved higher fertilization and were more likely to cause polyspermy than males with purple spines, and there was no effect of female spine color on fertilization; (2) when comparing the average success of individual matings with pooled-sperm matings, there was a net benefit to polyandry when purple-spine males were pooled, a net cost when white-spine males were pooled, and no difference when mismatched spine color males were pooled; and (3) the success under pooled-sperm trials, with any of the spine color combinations, never exceeded the success of the more successful male in the individual-male trials. Together these results suggest that the consequences of polyandry depend on the relation between sperm availability and the sensitivity of eggs to sperm limitation and polyspermy with respect to the specific set of available males. The potential fertilization consequences of a female spawning with multiple males might be associated primarily with increasing the amount of sperm available to fertilize her eggs and secondarily with increasing the chances of mating with a higher-quality or more compatible male, as opposed to a diversity of males.

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