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Multiple paternity in a natural population of a salamander with long-term sperm storage


Erika M. Adams, Present address: Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, 421 Biotechnology Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853–2703; Fax: (607) 255 6249; E-mail:


Sperm competition appears to be an important aspect of any mating system in which individual female organisms mate with multiple males and store sperm. Postcopulatory sexual selection may be particularly important in species that store sperm throughout long breeding seasons, because the lengthy storage period may permit extensive interactions among rival sperm. Few studies have addressed the potential for sperm competition in species exhibiting prolonged sperm storage. We used microsatellite markers to examine offspring paternity in field-collected clutches of the Ocoee salamander (Desmognathus ocoee), a species in which female organisms store sperm for up to 9 months prior to fertilization. We found that 96% of clutches were sired by multiple males, but that the majority of females used sperm from only two or three males to fertilize their eggs. The high rate of multiple mating by females suggests that sperm competition is an important aspect of this mating system. Comparison of our data with those of other parentage studies in salamanders and newts reveals that multiple mating may be common in urodele amphibians. Nevertheless, the number of males siring offspring per clutch in D. ocoee did not differ appreciably from that in other species of urodeles with shorter storage periods.