Are indirect genetic benefits associated with polyandry? Testing predictions in a natural population of lemon sharks


Joseph D. DiBattista, Fax: (514) 398 3185; E-mail:


Multiple mating has clear fitness benefits for males, but uncertain benefits and costs for females. We tested for indirect genetic benefits of polyandry in a natural population, by using data from a long-term genetic and demographic study of lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at Bimini, Bahamas. To do so, we followed the fates of individuals from six cohorts (450 age-0 and 254 age-1 fish) in relation to their individual level of genetic variation, and whether they were from polyandrous or monoandrous litters. We find that offspring from polyandrous litters did not have a greater genetic diversity or greater survival than did the offspring of monoandrous litters. We also find no evidence of positive associations between individual offspring genetic diversity metrics and our surrogate measure of fitness (i.e. survival). In fact, age-1 individuals with fewer heterozygous microsatellite loci and more genetically similar parents were more likely to survive to age-2. Thus, polyandry in female lemon sharks does not appear to be adaptive from the perspective of indirect genetic benefits to offspring. It may instead be the result of convenience polyandry, whereby females mate multiply to avoid harassment by males. Our inability to find indirect genetic benefits of polyandry despite detailed pedigree and survival information suggests the need for similar assessments in other natural populations.