Mating behaviour and postcopulatory fertilization patterns in the southern blue-ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena maculosa

Peter Morse, Christine L. Huffard, Mark G. Meekan, Mark I. McCormick, Kyall R. Zenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Female octopuses are known to store sperm from multiple males they encounter throughout a breeding season, before laying a single clutch with mixed paternity. Although octopuses display a broad range of precopulatory behaviours, and both sperm competition and cryptic female choice have been hypothesized to occur, the current understanding of how these processes influence resulting paternity remains limited. This study aimed to identify behavioural factors associated with paternity patterns and the capacity of females to bias paternity postcopulation to specific males in the southern blue-ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena maculosa. Genetic markers and controlled, sequential, laboratory pairings of genotyped individuals were used to examine paternity patterns and compare them to relative signatures of male sperm remaining in female oviducal glands after egg laying. Multiple paternity was discovered in all 12 laboratory-reared clutches. There was no indication that the relative time spent in copulation affected the resulting paternity. Males that waited for females to terminate the copulation had greater paternity when they were the first candidate male, but this was not the case among second candidate males. The relative quantities of candidate male alleles detected in female oviducal glands after egg laying were consistent with relative paternity of the candidate males in all but three cases. In one of these, sibship analysis revealed that the male that obtained less paternity than expected was in fact the female's full-sibling brother. Although this study found no evidence for female postcopulatory selection of male sperm, anecdotal evidence suggests that female H. maculosa might benefit from polyandry if chemical processes can favour clutch fertilization by unrelated males. Future studies, investigating paternity bias among genotyped males of varying, but known relatedness to the female, might help to validate this pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


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