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Assessing the potential for post-copulatory sexual selection in elasmobranchs

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Tel.: +61 8 6488 1773; email: jfitzpat@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

This review highlights the potential role that post-copulatory sexual selection plays in elasmobranch reproductive systems and the utility of this group to further understanding of evolutionary responses to the post-copulatory processes of sperm competition and cryptic female choice. The growing genetic evidence for female multiple mating (polyandry) in elasmobranchs is summarized. While polyandry appears to be common in this group, rates of multiple paternity are highly variable between species suggesting that there is large variance in the strength of post-copulatory sexual selection among elasmobranchs. Possible adaptations of traits important for post-copulatory sexual selection are then considered. Particular emphasis is devoted to explore the potential for sperm competition and cryptic female choice to influence the evolution of testes size, sperm morphology, genital morphology and sperm storage organs. Finally, it is argued that future work should take advantage of the wealth of information on these reproductive traits already available in elasmobranchs to gain a better understanding of how post-copulatory sexual selection operates in this group.

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