An experimental test of the role of male mating history on paternal effects in the livebearer fish Gambusia holbrooki

Upama Aich, Michael D. Jennions, Rebecca J. Fox

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Studies often show that paternal age affects offspring fitness. However, such effects could be due either to age, or to a male’s previous mating effort (which is necessarily confounded with age). We experimentally tested whether differences in the mating history of old males affect offspring performance in the mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki. Upon maturation, males were housed for a duration of the natural field-breeding season (23 weeks) either with mating access to females (lifetime-mating), or with visual but no physical access to females (no-mating). We then paired these males with a female to test whether male mating history had a significant effect on their mate’s breeding success or offspring performance. The daughters, but not the sons, of ‘no-mating’ treatment males matured significantly sooner, and at a significantly smaller size, than those of ‘lifetime-mating’ treatment males. There was, however, no effect of male mating history on their daughters’ initial fecundity, or on proxy measures of their sons’ reproductive success. These results, when combined with earlier studies showing effects of male mating history on sperm quality, growth and immunity, suggest that variation in paternal effects currently attributed to male age could partly arise because older males have usually mated more often than younger males.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190945
Number of pages6
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Ageing
  • Mating history
  • Paternal effects
  • Poeciliids
  • Sexual selection
  • Sperm quality

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