Increase in multiple paternity across the reproductive lifespan in a sperm-storing, hermaphroditic freshwater snail

Anja Bürkli, Jukka Jokela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polyandry is a common phenomenon and challenges the traditional view of stronger sexual selection in males than in females. In simultaneous hermaphrodites, the physical proximity of both sex functions was long thought to preclude the operation of sexual selection. Laboratory studies suggest that multiple mating and polyandry in hermaphrodites may actually be common, but data from natural populations are sparse. We therefore estimated the rate of multiple paternity and its seasonal variability in the annual, sperm-storing, simultaneously hermaphroditic freshwater snail Radix balthica for the entire duration of the reproductive lifespan. We also tested whether multiple paternity was associated with clutch size or embryonic development. To obtain these data, we measured and genotyped 60 field-collected egg clutches using nine highly polymorphic microsatellite markers. Overall, 50% of the clutches had multiple fathers, and both the frequency (20–93% of clutches) and magnitude of multiple paternity (mean 1.3–3.8 fathers per clutch) substantially increased over time, probably because of extensive sperm storage. Most multiply sired clutches (83%) had a dominant father, but neither clutch size nor the proportion of developed embryos per clutch was associated with levels of multiple paternity. Both the evident promiscuity and the frequent skew of paternity shares suggest that sexual selection may be an important evolutionary force in the study population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5264-5278
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Free keywords

  • mating system
  • multiple mating
  • natural population
  • polyandry
  • Radix balthica
  • sexual selection


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