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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Multiple mating and a low incidence of cuckoldry for nest-holding males in the two-spotted goby, Gobiusculus flavescens

Kenyon B Mobley12*, Trond Amundsen2, Elisabet Forsgren23, Per A Svensson24 and Adam G Jones1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, 3258 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA

2 Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway

3 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway

4 School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3800, Australia

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-6

Published: 8 January 2009



A major question in behavioural ecology concerns the relationship between genetic mating systems and the strength of sexual selection. In this study, we investigated the genetic mating system of the two-spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens), a useful fish model for the study of sexual selection whose genetic mating system remains uncharacterized. We developed four polymorphic microsatellite markers and used them to conduct parentage analyses on 21 nests collected during the breeding season to examine the rates of multiple mating by males and to test for evidence of alternative mating strategies.


Results of this study indicate that male G. flavescens mate with multiple females and enjoy confidence of paternity. We detected only one instance of sneaking, so cuckoldry contributed a very small percentage (~0.1%) of the total fertilizations in this population. Nests were nearly full and males that maintain larger nests have higher mating and reproductive success, irrespective of body size.


Overall, our investigation shows that G. flavescens is similar to other, related gobies in that the nests of care-giving males often contain eggs from multiple females. However, G. flavescens differs from other gobies in displaying an extremely low rate of cuckoldry. The study of ecological factors responsible for this important difference between G. flavescens and related species should be a fertile area for future work.