Multiple paternity in a wild population of northern water snakes, Nerodia sipedon

Frances E. Barry, Patrick J Weatherhead, David P. Philipp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For most animal species, a single mating is sufficient to fertilize all of a female's offspring. As a result, females do not usually increase their reproductive success with successive matings. However, multiple paternity has been discovered in many animal taxa. We demonstrate that the majority of female water snakes in a wild population mate with more than one male for each litter. Field observations indicated that a highly skewed operational sex ratio (3.6:1 M : F) during the breeding season, while not necessary for multiple paternity to occur, created ample opportunity for females to mate multiply. Protein electrophoretic analysis showed that at least 12 of 14 litters from naturally mated females had more than one father. Since male snakes can not force copulations, multiple matings seem likely to be the result of female choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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