DOES GENETIC RELATEDNESS OF MATES INFLUENCE COMPETITIVE FERTILIZATION SUCCESS IN GUPPIES?

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Abstract

A growing number of studies highlight the nontransitive properties of ejaculates when they are in competition to fertilize a female's eggs. Increasingly, these studies suggest that postcopulatory processes act as a filter against sperm from closely related males or those with similar genotypes, limiting the deleterious effects of inbreeding on offspring fitness. We investigated the potential for such postcopulatory mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata), a promiscuous livebearing fish. We used artificial insemination as a method of delivering to a female the combined ejaculates from a first cousin (relatedness coefficient r= 0.125) and an unrelated male. This method of sperm delivery controls behavioral processes of pre- and postcopulatory female choice, which can bias paternity toward unrelated males. Our genetic analysis revealed no effect of parental relatedness on paternity outcomes. The observed mean paternity share for related males (0.47) and associated variance did not differ significantly from an expected binomial distribution that assumes no biased use of sperm with respect to relatedness (0.5). Although our data provide no evidence for postcopulatory mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance, the ability of female guppies to influence ejaculate transfer and retention offers an alternative and easily testable mechanism of inbreeding avoidance in this species.

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