Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 53–61 | Cite as

Multiple paternity and female sperm usage along egg-case strings of the knobbed whelk, Busycon carica (Mollusca; Melongenidae)

  • DeEtte WalkerEmail author
  • Alan J. Power
  • Mary Sweeney-Reeves
  • John C. Avise
Research Article


We used genotypic data from three highly polymorphic microsatellite loci (two autosomal and one sex-linked) to examine micro-spatial and temporal arrangements of genetic paternity for more than 1,500 embryos housed along 12 egg-case strings of the knobbed whelk, Busycon carica. Multiple paternity proved to be the norm in these single-dam families, with genetic contributions of several sires (at least 3.5 on average) being represented among embryos within individual egg capsules as well as along the string. Two strings were studied in much greater detail; five and seven fathers were identified, none of which was among the several males found in consort with the female at her time of egg-laying. Each deduced sire had fathered roughly constant proportions of embryos along most of the string, but those proportions differed consistently among fathers. A few significant paternity shifts at specifiable positions along an egg-case string were also observed. Although the precise physical mechanisms inside a female whelk’s reproductive tract remain unknown, our genetic findings indicate that successive fertilization events (and/or depositions of zygotes into egg capsules) normally occur as near-random draws from a well-but-not-perfectly blended pool of gametes (or zygotes) stemming from stored ejaculates, perhaps in different titers, of a dam’s several mates.


Multiple Paternity Seminal Receptacle Sperm Storage Bursa Copulatrix Progeny Array 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Work was supported by a Pew Foundation Fellowship in Marine Conservation to JCA and by the Marine Extension Service to AJP. Rebecca Green, Dodie Thompson, and Randal Walker provided field assistance. John N. Kraeuter and an anonymous reviewer provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript greatly. All experiments comply with current US laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • DeEtte Walker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan J. Power
    • 2
  • Mary Sweeney-Reeves
    • 2
  • John C. Avise
    • 3
  1. 1.Georgia Institute of Technology AtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Marine Extension ServiceUniversity of GeorgiaSavannahUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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