Numerous studies have reported that females benefit from mating with multiple males (polyandry) by minimizing the probability of fertilization by genetically incompatible sperm. Few, however, have directly attributed variation in female reproductive success to the fertilizing capacity of sperm. In this study we report on two experiments that investigated the benefits of polyandry and the interacting effects of males and females at fertilization in the free-spawning Australian sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma. In the first experiment we used a paired (split clutch) experimental design and compared fertilization rates within female egg clutches under polyandry (eggs exposed to the sperm from two males simultaneously) and monandry (eggs from the same female exposed to sperm from each of the same two males separately). Our analysis revealed a significant fertilization benefit of polyandry and strong interacting effects of males and females at fertilization. Further analysis of these data strongly suggested that the higher rates of fertilization in the polyandry treatment were due to an overrepresentation of fertilizations due to the most compatible male. To further explore the interacting effects of males and females at fertilization we performed a second factorial experiment in which four males were crossed with two females (in all eight combinations). In addition to confirming that fertilization success is influenced by male × female interactions, this latter experiment revealed that both sexes contributed significant variance to the observed patterns of fertilization. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of male × female interactions at fertilization and suggest that polyandry will enable females to reduce the cost of fertilization by incompatible gametes.
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Vol. 59 • No. 1