• Neff, Bryan D.
  • Clare, Elizabeth


Male alternative reproductive tactics have been described in many mating systems. In fishes, these tactics typically involve a territorial male that defends a spawning site or nest and a parasitic male that uses sneaking or female mimicry to steal fertilizations from the territorial male. In this paper, we use molecular genetic markers to examine the success of males that adopt alternative reproductive tactics in two sunfishes, comprising the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819) and the pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus (L., 1758)). In sunfishes, the tactics are referred to as parental (territorial male) and cuckolder (parasitic male). We show that cuckoldry rates peak in the second trimester of the breeding season in bluegill, whereas cuckoldry rates are lowest during this period in pumpkinseed. We also show that paternity of parental male bluegill is positively correlated with body condition, but not body length or mass. No relationship between these phenotypic variables and paternity in pumpkinseed was found. We discuss the patterns of cuckoldry in relation to differences between the species in mating opportunities, parental male defence ability, and cuckolder density. Finally, we discuss how the paternity data can be used to differentiate between two mechanisms underlying the expression of alternative reproductive tactics, comprising the condition strategy and alternative strategies.