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Keywords:

  • Broadcast spawning;
  • genetic compatibility;
  • genetic quality;
  • good genes;
  • good sperm;
  • quantitative genetics;
  • North Carolina II

In nonresource based mating systems females are thought to derive indirect genetic benefits by mating with high-quality males. Such benefits can be due either to the intrinsic genetic quality of sires or to beneficial interactions between maternal and paternal haplotypes. Animals with external fertilization and no parental care offer unrivaled opportunities to address these hypotheses. With these systems, cross-classified breeding designs and in vitro fertilization can be used to disentangle sources of genetic and environmental variance in offspring fitness. Here, we employ these approaches in the Australian sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma and explore how sire–dam identities influence fertilization rates, embryo viability (survival to hatching), and metamorphosis, as well as the interrelationships between these potential fitness traits. We show that fertilization is influenced by a combination of strong maternal effects and intrinsic male effects. Our subsequent analysis of embryo viability, however, revealed a highly significant interaction between parental genotypes, indicating that partial incompatibilities can severely limit offspring survival at this life-history stage. Importantly, we detected no significant relationship between fertilization rates and embryo viability. This finding suggests that fertilization rates should not be inferred from hatching rates, which is commonly practiced in species in which it is not possible to estimate fertilization at conception. Finally, we detected significant additive genetic variance due to sires in rates of juvenile metamorphosis, and a positive correlation between fertilization rates and metamorphosis. This latter finding indicates that the performance of a male's ejaculate in noncompetitive IVF trials predicts heritable offspring traits, although the fitness implications of variance in rates of spontaneous juvenile metamorphosis have yet to be determined.