An important question in sea turtle biology is the number of males that contribute to the fertilization of a clutch of eggs. Previous studies on other sea turtle species have indicated little to no multiple paternity. We conclude here that female Kemp's ridleys, Lepidochelys kempi, are polyandrous. DNA from 26 mother and offspring groups was analysed at three microsatellite loci to identify paternal alleles. Three paternal alleles were observed among 14 of the clutches; four paternal alleles were observed among the offspring of an additional female. A maximum likelihood analysis not only rejects the model of single paternity, but also rejects the model of equal paternal contribution to the clutch. By explicitly addressing the high mutation rate of microsatellite markers, our analysis rejected mutation as the sole cause of multiple paternal alleles.
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