Fish have some of the most complex mating systems known in the animal kingdom. With the advent of powerful genetic markers and an emerging mathematical framework to calculate parentage, it is now possible to analyze genetic relatedness and gene flow in these systems. An important example is the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) which consists of parental males that provide sole care for the young, cuckolder males that parasitize the parentals, and females that actively choose among males within dense breeding colonies. In this article genetic markers for bluegill are characterized and their utility in parentage studies is demonstrated by calculating the genetic relatedness of parental males to their broods for an entire natural breeding colony. A novel Monte Carlo simulation is developed to calculate the confidence in the relatedness estimates and these data are used to provide an estimate of the mean breeding success of parental and cuckolder males. Finally, the applications of genetic analyses to understanding mating systems, parental care, and life-history evolution in bluegill are discussed.
Large enclosure used to monitor behaviour