Journal of Ethology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 237–243 | Cite as

High frequency of mating without egg release in highly promiscuous nonparasitic lamprey Lethenteron kessleri

  • Chitose Yamazaki
  • Itsuro KoizumiEmail author
Short Communication


Nonparasitic lampreys are highly promiscuous: a single female can mate over several dozen times with multiple males. It remains unknown why females mate so frequently despite presumed costs from an elongated spawning period. This paper documents that female Siberian brook lampreys mate without egg release (termed “sham mating”) at remarkably high frequencies. Females mated 20–196 times during a breeding experiment, of which sham mating comprised 35–90%. The number of eggs released may be physically constrained in each mating by the lamprey’s elongated body and behavior. Female lampreys might also control egg release depending on surrounding males.


Citizen data Female choice Group spawning Polygynandry Mate choice Spawning aggregation 



We greatly appreciate invaluable comments from Dr. J. B. Hume and an anonymous reviewer on the earlier version of the manuscript. This study was partly supported by the research fund provided by the Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant from The Japan Science Society (No. 25–515) to C. Y.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Formal approval for the field experiment was granted by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the National University Corporation Hokkaido University (approval no. 26-2).

Supplementary material

10164_2017_505_MOESM1_ESM.mpg (40.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (MPG 41650 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 60874 kb)


  1. Andersson M, Simmons LW (2006) Sexual selection and mate choice. Trends Ecol Evol 21:296–302CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beamish FW (1979) Migration and spawning energetics of the anadromous sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. Environ Biol Fish 4:3–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beamish RJ, Neville CM (1992) The importance of size as an isolating mechanism in lampreys. Copeia 1:191–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birkhead T (2000) Promiscuity: an evolutionary history of sperm competition and sexual conflict. Faber and Faber, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Cochran PA, Bloom DD, Wagner RJ (2008) Alternative reproductive behaviors in lampreys and their signifcance. J Freshw Ecol 22:37–41Google Scholar
  6. Dicken ML, Booth AJ (2013) Surveys of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) off bathing beaches in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Mar Freshwater Res 64:530–539. doi: 10.1071/MF12336 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hagelin LO (1959) Further aquarium observations on the spawning habits of the river lamprey (Petromyzon fluviatilis). Oikos 10:50–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hardisty MW, Potter IC (1971) The biology of lampreys, vol 1. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Hume JB, Adams CE, Mable B, Bean CW (2013) Sneak male mating tactics between lampreys (Petromyzontiformes) exhibiting alternative life-history strategies. J Fish Biol 82:1093–1100CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Hunter FM, Petrie M, Otronen M, Birkhead T, Møller AP (1993) Why do females copulate repeatedly with one male? Trends Ecol Evol 8:21–26CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Iwata A, Goto A, Hamada K (1985) A review of the Siberian lamprey, Lethenteron kessleri, in Hokkaido, Japan. Bull Fac Fish Hokkaido Univ 36:182–190Google Scholar
  12. Jang MH, Lucas MC (2005) Reproductive ecology of the river lamprey. J Fish Biol 66:499–512. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2005.00618.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Johnson NS, Buchinger TJ, Li W (2015) Reproductive ecology of lampreys. In: Docker MF (ed) Lampreys: biology, conservation and control. Springer, the Netherlands, pp 265–303Google Scholar
  14. Luhring TM, Meckley TD, Johnson NS et al (2016) A semelparous fish continues upstream migration when exposed to alarm cue, but adjusts movement speed and timing. Anim Behav 121:41–51. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.08.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Malmqvist B (1980) The spawning migration of the brook lamprey, Lampetra planer Bloch, in a South Swedish stream. J Fish Biol 16:105–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Malmqvist B (1983) Breeding behaviour of brook lampreys Lampetra planeri: experiments on mate choice. Oikos 41:43–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Maunder MN, Punt AE (2004) Standardizing catch and effort data: a review of recent approaches. Fish Res 70:141–159. doi: 10.1016/j.fishres.2004.08.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nelson XJ, Fijin N (2013) The use of visual media as a tool for investigating animal behaviour. Anim Behav 85:525–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Renaud CB (2011) Lampreys of the world: an annotated and illustrated catalogue of lamprey species known to date. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  20. Salewski V (2003) Satellite species in lampreys: a worldwide trend for ecological speciation in sympatry? J Fish Biol 63:267–279. doi: 10.1046/j.1095-8649.2003.00166.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Takayama M (2002) Spawning activities and physical characteristics of the spawning ground of Lethenteron reissneri at the headstream of the Himekawa River, central Japan. Ichthyol Res 49:165–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Westneat DF, Stewart IRK (2003) Extra-pair paternity in birds: causes, correlates and conflict. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34:365–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Yasui Y (1998) The “genetic benefits” of female multiple mating reconsidered. Trends Ecol Evol 13:246–250CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Young RT, Cole LJ (1900) On the nesting habits of the brook lamprey (Lampetra wilderi). Am Nat 34:617–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

Personalised recommendations