Factors influencing paternity in multiply mated female red-sided garter snakes and the persistent use of sperm stored over winter Public Deposited


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  • In some species, sperm is stored within the female reproductive tract for months to years, and yet remains viable to fertilize eggs and produce offspring. Female red-sided garter snakes store sperm for over seven months of winter dormancy. In previous work we demonstrated that these stored sperm account for an average of 25% paternity of a litter when the female mates with a male at spring emergence. Here we tested whether last-male sperm precedence was prevalent when a female mates with two males during the spring. On average, paternity was shared equally among the first (P₁ proportion of paternity of the first male to mate) and second male (P₂) to mate in the spring, and stored sperm (P[subscript ss]), but the variance in paternity was high. Thus, last male sperm precedence may diminish when a female has more than two mates. Male size did not affect paternity, but as the interval between matings increased, P₁ increased at the expense of P[subscript ss]. Interestingly, as the second spring male’s copulation duration increased, P₁ also increased at the expense of P₂. This result suggests that female influence over sperm and/or copulatory plug transfer during matings may also affect which male fathers her offspring in response to coercive matings as we assisted females to mate for their second mating. Finally, all females were spring “virgins”, consequently sperm stored from autumn matings (and/or previous spring matings) remain competitive even when faced with two rivals in sperm competition and is likely the driver of the evolution of sperm longevity.
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  • Friesen, C. R., Kerns, A. R., & Mason, R. T. (2014). Factors influencing paternity in multiply mated female red-sided garter snakes and the persistent use of sperm stored over winter. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(9), 1419-1430. doi:10.1007/s00265-014-1749-0
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