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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Aug 31;96(18):10236-41.

Genetic benefits enhance the reproductive success of polyandrous females.

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Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-5513, USA.


Although it is generally accepted that females can gain material benefits by mating with more than one male, the proposal that polyandry provides genetic benefits remains controversial, largely because direct experimental support is lacking. Here, we report the results of a study testing for genetic benefits to polyandry in the pseudoscorpion Cordylochernes scorpioides. In an experiment that controlled for male mating experience and the number of spermatophores accepted by a female, twice-mated females received either one sperm-packet from each of two different males (the "DM" treatment) or two sperm-packets from a single male (the same male or "SM" treatment). Over their lifetime, DM females gave birth to 32% more offspring than did SM females, primarily because of a significantly reduced rate of spontaneous abortion. This result could not be attributed to male infertility nor to lack of sexual receptivity in males paired with previous mates. Spermatophore and sperm numbers did not differ between males presented with a previous mate and males paired with a new female. Because SM and DM females received the same quantity of ejaculate, it was possible to eliminate material benefits as a contributor to the enhanced reproductive success of DM females. The reduction in embryo failure rate achieved by DM females is most consistent with the genetic incompatibility avoidance hypothesis, i.e., that polyandry enables females to exploit postcopulatory mechanisms for reducing the risk and/or cost of fertilization by genetically incompatible sperm. This study, which rigorously controlled for material benefits and excluded inbreeding effects, demonstrates that polyandry provides genetic benefits that significantly enhance female lifetime reproductive success.

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