Evolutionary causes and consequences of sequential polyandry in anuran amphibians



Publication Details

Byrne, P. G. & Roberts, J. Dale. (2012). Evolutionary causes and consequences of sequential polyandry in anuran amphibians. Biological Reviews, 87 (1), 209-228.


Among anuran amphibians (frogs and toads), there are two types of polyandry: simultaneous polyandry, where sperm from multiple males compete to fertilize eggs, and sequential polyandry, where eggs from a single female are fertilized by multiple males in a series of temporally separate mating events, and sperm competition is absent. Here we review the occurrence of sequential polyandry in anuran amphibians, outline theoretical explanations for the evolution of this mating system and discuss potential evolutionary implications. Sequential polyandry has been reported in a limited number of anurans, but its widespread taxonomic and geographic distribution suggests it may be common. There have been no empirical studies that have explicitly investigated the evolutionary consequences of sequential polyandry in anurans, but species with this mating pattern share an array of behavioural, morphological and physiological characteristics, suggesting that there has been common sexual selection on their reproductive system. Sequential polyandry may have a number of adaptive benefits, including spreading the risk of brood failure in unpredictable environments, insuring against male infertility, or providing genetic benefits, either through good genes, intrinsic compatibility or genetic diversity effects. Anurans with sequential polyandry provide untapped opportunities for innovative research approaches that will contribute significantly to understanding anuran evolution and also, more broadly, to the development of sexual-selection and life-history theory.

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