Paternity share predicts sons’ fetal testosterone

Ruth Fishman, Lee Koren, Rachel Ben-Shlomo, Uri Shanas, Yoni Vortman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple paternity is common in many species. While its benefits for males are obvious, for females they are less clear. Female indirect benefits may include acquiring ‘good genes’ for offspring or increasing litter genetic diversity. The nutria (Myocastor coypus) is a successful invasive species. In its native habitat, it is polygynous, with larger and more aggressive males monopolizing paternity. Here, using culled nutria we genetically examined multiple paternity in-utero and found a high incidence of multiple paternity and maintenance of the number of fathers throughout gestation. Moreover, male fetuses sired by the prominent male have higher testosterone levels. Despite being retained, male fetuses of ‘rare’ fathers, siring commonly only one of the fetuses in the litter, have lower testosterone levels. Considering the reproductive skew of nutria males, if females are selected for sons with higher future reproductive success, low testosterone male fetuses are expected to be selected against. A possible ultimate explanation for maintaining multiple paternity could be that nutria females select for litter genetic diversity e.g., a bet-hedging strategy, even at the possible cost of reducing the reproductive success of some of their sons. Reproductive strategies that maintain genetic diversity may be especially beneficial for invasive species, as they often invade through a genetic bottleneck.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16737
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 4 Oct 2023

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© 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

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