Inference of sperm competition from broods of field-caught Drosophila

Lawrence G. Harshman, Andrew G. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


In field studies of multiple mating and sperm competition there typically is no experimental control over the number of times that a female mates, the interval between matings, or the genetic identity of multiple fathers contributing to a brood Irrespective of this complexity, high-resolution molecular markers can be used to assign paternity with considerable confidence. This study employed two highly heterozygous microsatellite loci to assess multiple paternity and sperm displacement m a sample of broods taken from a natural population of Drosophila melanogaster. The large number of alleles present at each of the loci makes it difficult to derive explicit maximum-likelihood estimates for multiple paternity and sperm displacement from brood samples Monte Carlo simulations were used to estimate maximum-likelihood parameters for the distribution of female remating frequency and the proportion of offspring sired by the second or subsequent mating males. Estimates were made based on genotypes scored at two distinct marker loci because they were found to give statistically homogeneous results. Fitting a Poisson distribution of number of matings, the mean number of males mated by a female was 1.82. The sperm displacement parameter estimated from doubly mated females were 0.79 and 0.86 for the two loci (0.83 for the joint estimate). The overall probability that a multiply mated female will be misclassified as singly mated was only 0.006, which indicates that microsatellites can provide excellent resolution for identifying multiple mating. In addition, microsatellites can be used to generate relatively precise estimates of sperm precedence in brood-structured samples from a natural population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1334-1341
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Drosophila
  • Microsatellites
  • Multiple mating
  • Sperm competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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