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Keywords:

  • marine turtle;
  • mating system;
  • microsatellite;
  • mutation;
  • sperm competition

Paternity of 22 green turtle (Chelonia mydas) clutches from 13 females of the southern Great Barrier Reef breeding population was determined through microsatellite analyses at five loci, including the analysis of successive clutches for nine of the females. A large number of alleles per locus (10–40) provided probabilities of detecting multiple paternity that were quite high, particularly at all loci combined (99.9%). Although green turtles are promiscuous breeders and there was an expectation of finding extensive multiple paternity, only two clutches were multiply sired and, in these, very few eggs had been fertilized by a secondary male. The rarity of multiple paternity may reflect either a low proportion of multiple matings by females in this population, or sperm competition, possibly resulting from a first-male sperm preference. Additionally, the analysis of > 900 offspring provided data on mutations, which included 20 mutation events that were observed in 27 offspring and involved both maternal and paternal lineages. Most mutations (n = 16) occurred at a single highly variable locus and their presence emphasizes the need to use multiple loci in paternity studies.