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Moderate multiple parentage and low genetic variation reduces the potential for genetic incompatibility avoidance despite high risk of inbreeding

Tuni, Cristina; Goodacre, Sara; Bechsgaard, Jesper; Bilde, Trine


Cristina Tuni

Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Genetics

Jesper Bechsgaard

Trine Bilde



Polyandry is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. In the absence of direct benefits of mating with different males, the underlying basis for polyandry is enigmatic because it can carry considerable costs such as elevated exposure to sexual diseases, physical injury or other direct fitness costs. Such costs may be balanced by indirect genetic benefits to the offspring of polyandrous females. We investigated polyandry and patterns of parentage in the spider Stegodyphus lineatus. This species experiences relatively high levels of inbreeding as a result of its spatial population structure, philopatry and limited male mating dispersal. Polyandry may provide an opportunity for post mating inbreeding avoidance that reduces the risk of genetic incompatibilities arising from incestuous matings. However, multiple mating carries direct fitness costs to females suggesting that genetic benefits must be substantial to counter direct costs.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Genetic parentage analyses in two populations from Israel and a Greek island, showed mixed-brood parentage in approximately 50% of the broods. The number of fathers ranged from 1–2 indicating low levels of multiple parentage and there was no evidence for paternity bias in mixed-broods from both populations. Microsatellite loci variation suggested limited genetic variation within populations, especially in the Greek island population. Relatedness estimates among females in the maternal generation and potentially interacting individuals were substantial indicating full-sib and half-sib relationships.


Three lines of evidence indicate limited potential to obtain substantial genetic benefits in the form of reduced inbreeding. The relatively low frequency of multiple parentage together with low genetic variation among potential mates and the elevated risk of mating among related individuals as corroborated by our genetic data suggest that there are limited actual outbreeding opportunities for polyandrous females. Polyandry in S. lineatus is thus unlikely to be maintained through adaptive female choice.


Tuni, C., Goodacre, S., Bechsgaard, J., & Bilde, T. (2012). Moderate multiple parentage and low genetic variation reduces the potential for genetic incompatibility avoidance despite high risk of inbreeding. PLoS ONE, 7(1), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029636

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 3, 2012
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 2, 2014
Journal PLoS ONE
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Article Number e29636
Public URL
Publisher URL


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