Format

Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2000 Feb;75(1):21-64.

Why do females mate multiply? A review of the genetic benefits.

Author information

  • 1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Republic of Panama. jennionm@naos.si.edu

Abstract

The aim of this review is to consider the potential benefits that females may gain from mating more than once in a single reproductive cycle. The relationship between non-genetic and genetic benefits is briefly explored. We suggest that multiple mating for purely non-genetic benefits is unlikely as it invariably leads to the possibility of genetic benefits as well. We begin by briefly reviewing the main models for genetic benefits to mate choice, and the supporting evidence that choice can increase offspring performance and the sexual attractiveness of sons. We then explain how multiple mating can elevate offspring fitness by increasing the number of potential sires that compete, when this occurs in conjunction with mechanisms of paternity biasing that function in copula or post-copulation. We begin by identifying cases where females use pre-copulatory cues to identify mates prior to remating. In the simplest case, females remate because they identify a superior mate and 'trade up' genetically. The main evidence for this process comes from extra-pair copulation in birds. Second, we note other cases where pre-copulatory cues may be less reliable and females mate with several males to promote post-copulatory mechanisms that bias paternity. Although a distinction is drawn between sperm competition and cryptic female choice, we point out that the genetic benefits to polyandry in terms of producing more viable or sexually attractive offspring do not depend on the exact mechanism that leads to biased paternity. Post-copulatory mechanisms of paternity biasing may: (1) reduce genetic incompatibility between male and female genetic contributions to offspring; (2) increase offspring viability if there is a positive correlation between traits favoured post-copulation and those that improve performance under natural selection; (3) increase the ability of sons to gain paternity when they mate with polyandrous females. A third possibility is that genetic diversity among offspring is directly favoured. This can be due to bet-hedging (due to mate assessment errors or temporal fluctuations in the environment), beneficial interactions between less related siblings or the opportunity to preferentially fertilise eggs with sperm of a specific genotype drawn from a range of stored sperm depending on prevailing environmental conditions. We use case studies from the social insects to provide some concrete examples of the role of genetic diversity among progeny in elevating fitness. We conclude that post-copulatory mechanisms provide a more reliable way of selecting a genetically compatible mate than pre-copulatory mate choice. Some of the best evidence for cryptic female choice by sperm selection is due to selection of more compatible sperm. Two future areas of research seem likely to be profitable. First, more experimental evidence is needed demonstrating that multiple mating increases offspring fitness via genetic gains. Second, the role of multiple mating in promoting assortative fertilization and increasing reproductive isolation between populations may help us to understand sympatric speciation.

PMID:
10740892
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Blackwell Publishing
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk