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The coelacanth leads a monogamous life
Date:9/19/2013

Scientists have successfully analysed the genetic make-up of the offspring of pregnant coelacanth females for the first time. They found that the likelihood that the offspring is fathered by one single individual is very high unlike with many other fish species. Dr Kathrin Lampert from the Ruhr-Universitt Bochum and Prof Dr Manfred Schartl from the University of Wrzburg, together with their colleagues, report about their findings in the journal "Nature Communications".

Analysis of the microsatellite DNA

The pregnant coelacanth females studied by the researchers were about to give birth to their offspring. One female that had accidentally ended up in a trawl net by the Mozambique coast was carrying 26 embryos, another one caught unintentionally by fishermen in Zanzibar waters was carrying 23. When comparing 14 characteristic spots in the genetic make-up of the females and of their offspring with each other, the researchers found numerous overlaps. They deployed a method that is also utilised for conducting paternity tests in humans, namely microsatellite analysis. Microsatellites are short DNA sequences, consisting of only a few units that, typically, may recur up to 50 times. They do not usually carry any genetic information, but they are passed down from both parents. "As we know the mother's genotype, we are able to demonstrate by means of the microsatellite analysis that coelacanth offspring have one single father," says Manfred Schartl. Consequently, coelacanth females must be monogamous at least for a certain period of time. The team also reconstructed the "hypothetical genotype", i.e. the hypothetical genetic make-up of both fathers.

Coelacanths do not take advantage of multiple mating

It is not clear why the females mate with one single male each. Mating with several males increases the chance of successful fertilisation, results in a higher genetic variability in the offspring and ensures that
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Contact: Dr. Kathrin Lampert
kathrin.lampert@rub.de
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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